NACCHO #HealthElection16 : AMA launches Key Health Issues / Aboriginal Health policy for 2016 Federal Elections


” The gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is still considerable, despite the commitment to closing the gap.

The AMA sees progress being made, particularly in reducing early childhood mortality rates, and in addressing major risk factors for chronic disease, such as smoking. However, to close the gap in Indigenous health, Government must commit to improving resourcing for culturally appropriate primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the health workforce.

Including increased investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations. Such investment must support services to build their capacity and be sustainable over the long term;

Brian Owler AMA President pictured above Matthew Cooke Chair of NACCHO at recent NACCHO Event Parliament House Canberra : The Aboriginal Policy is part of a 16 Page AMA Health Issues Document  

“The Medicare freeze is not just a co-payment by stealth – it is a sneaky new tax that punishes every Australian family,”

Professor Owler said, with the elderly and chronically ill among those most affected see press release here AMA LAUNCHES NATIONAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE MEDICARE REBATE FREEZE (FED)

Putting Health First

Download the 16 Pages here AMA Key Health Issues Federal Election 2016

Health policy will be at the core of the 2016 Federal Election.

The AMA is non-partisan. It is our role during election campaigns, as it is throughout the terms of governments, to highlight the issues we think will be of greatest benefit to the health system, the medical profession, the community, and patients.

As is customary, the AMA will focus on the respective health policy platforms presented by the major parties in the coming weeks.

The next Government must invest significantly in the health of the Australian people.

Investment in health is the best investment that governments can make.

We must protect and support the fundamentals of the health system.

The two major pillars of the system that mean most to the Australian people are quality primary health care services, led by general practice, and well-resourced public hospitals.

The AMA has advocated strongly and tirelessly on these issues for the term of the current Government.

General practice and public hospitals are the priority health issues for this election.

The AMA is calling on the major parties to lift the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) patient rebate. The freeze was extended until 2020 in the recent Budget. The freeze means that patients will pay more for their health care. It also affects the viability of medical practices.

We also need substantial new funding for public hospitals. The Government provided $2.9 billion in new funding in the Budget, but this is well short of what is needed for the long term.

We must build capacity in our public hospitals. Funding must be better targeted, patient-focused, and clinician led.

The AMA is also calling for leadership and effective policy from the major parties on Indigenous health, medical workforce and training, chronic disease management, and a range of important public health measures.

The AMA will release a separate Rural Health Plan, responding to the unique health needs of people in rural and regional Australia, later in the election campaign.

Elections are about choices. The type of health system we want is one of those crucial decisions.

In this document, Key Health Issues for the 2016 Federal Election, the AMA offers wide-ranging policies that build on what works. We offer policies that come from the experience of doctors who are at the coalface of the system – the doctors who know how to make the system work best for patients.

The AMA urges all political parties to engage in a competitive and constructive health policy debate ahead of the election on 2 July.

Indigenous Health Policy Continued

Despite the recent health gains, progress remains frustratingly slow and much more needs to be done. A life expectancy gap of around 10 years remains between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians, with recent data suggesting that Indigenous people experience stubbornly high levels of treatable and preventable conditions, high levels of chronic conditions at comparatively young ages, high levels of undetected and untreated chronic conditions, and higher rates of co-morbidity in chronic disease. This is completely unacceptable.

It is not credible that Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, cannot address health and social justice issues affecting just three per cent of its citizens. The Government must deliver effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and develop and implement tangible strategies to address social inequalities and determinants of health.

Without this, the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians will remain wide and intractable.

The AMA calls on the major parties to commit to:

  • correct the under-funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services;
  • establish new and strengthen existing programs to address preventable health conditions that are known to have a significant impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as cardiovascular diseases (including rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease), diabetes, kidney disease, and blindness;
  • increase investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations. Such investment must support services to build their capacity and be sustainable over the long term;
  • develop systemic linkages between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations and mainstream health services to ensure high quality and culturally safe continuity of care;
  • identify areas of poor health and inadequate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and direct funding according to need;
  • institute funded national training programs to support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become health professionals to address the shortfall of Indigenous people in the health workforce;
  • implement measures to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to primary health care and medical specialist services;
  • adopt a justice reinvestment approach to health by funding services to divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, given the strong link between health and incarceration;
  • appropriately resource the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to ensure that actions are met within specified timeframes; and
  • support for a Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre. Central Australia faces many unique and complex health issues that require specific research, training and clinical practice to properly manage and treat, and this type of collaborative medical and academic research, along with project delivery and working in remote communities, is desperately needed.

Australian Medical Association joins campaign against Medicare rebate freeze


Download the AMA Press Release


Article below originally published here

Tens of thousands of specialist doctors are joining GPs’ war against the Turnbull government’s extended freeze on Medicare rebates, increasing pressure on the Coalition’s health record ahead of the federal election.

The Australian Medical Association has distributed posters to its members, warning patients that they will be out of pocket because the cost of running the medical practice will continue to rise as Medicare rebates stay frozen until 2020.

“You will pay a new or higher co-payment every time you visit your GP, every time you visit other medical specialists, every time you need a blood test, and every time you need an X-ray or other imaging,” it says, alongside a photo of a woman comforting a crying child.

It comes a week after the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners announced its 32,000 members would urge their patients to lobby local MPs against the move. The groups share about 8000 members, adding about 22,000 more specialist doctors to the campaign.

The AMA’s campaign similarly encourages patients to contact their local MPs and election candidates, but goes further to directly blame the Turnbull government for the extra cost: “The government has cut Medicare and wants you to pay for it.”

While pathologists on Friday agreed to retain bulk-billing rates in exchange for reduced regulatory pressure on rents under a deal with Health Minister Sussan Ley, the AMA maintains that they and diagnostic imaging services will remain under pressure to charge patients, with the government’s cuts to bulk-billing incentive payments deferred till later in the year.

The AMA’s president, Professor Brian Owler, said many doctors had absorbed costs but the extension “has pushed them over the edge”. They may charge patients a $30 co-payment to cover costs associated with moving to a private billing system, more than triple the Abbott government’s failed and deeply unpopular $7 GP co-payment, he said.

“The Medicare freeze is not just a co-payment by stealth – it is a sneaky new tax that punishes every Australian family,” Professor Owler said, with the elderly and chronically ill among those most affected.

While most specialists (about 70 per cent) already charged patients a co-payment, having had their rebates frozen for decades, the extended freeze could reduce the bulk-billing rate further, an AMA spokesman said.

Labor froze indexation for eight months in 2013, lifting it briefly for GPs in 2014-15. The Coalition extended it for four years in 2014, and this year extended it a further two years to 2020, to save $925.3 million.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor opposed the extended freeze at the leaders’ debate on Friday, but would not say whether it would commit to lifting it if elected.

Thirty per cent of 400 GPs surveyed by the College said they would stop all bulk-billing, including for concession card holders, due to the extended freeze. Another 18 per cent said the practice would start charging a co-payment, but cap annual out-of-pocket fees for concession card holders.

Thirty per cent said they would maintain a mixed billing policy, and 10 per cent would continue to bulk bill all patients. Twelve per cent said they were already privately billing all their patients.

The Turnbull government plans to cut bulk-billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services to save $650 million over four years. Pathology Australia, which had warned this would lead more doctors to charge patients for pap smears, blood and urine tests, has agreed to drop its public campaign against the cuts.

Ms Ley said: “The Coalition will increase Medicare investment to $26 billion per year by 2020-21, while introducing revolutionary reforms such as Health Care Homes that cement a GP’s role at the centre of patient care.”

While she appreciated many GPs’ efforts to keep costs down during the indexation freeze, she was disappointed that “there’s no reciprocal offer to assist taxpayers with the immediate financial challenges our budget faces while [Health Care Homes are] implemented”.


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