Added funds for public hospitals and extra spending on healthcare and aged care have been welcomed by a peak health body, although it claims more money could be directed at primary health care in order to take the load off the public health system.
“What is needed in addition is a wider health agenda: we are looking for both sides to step up and expand primary care and transitional care services outside hospitals,” said Consumers Health Forum (CHF) Chief Executive Leanne Wells.
“With significant levels of extra funding available, whoever wins the election, we urge our political leaders to rethink health spending goals and add a significant investment in primary care reform into the mix.
“We would like to see both the Coalition and Labor devote more funding and priority to primary care that, if delivered effectively, would reduce demand for more expensive hospital care.”
Windfalls for health include $83.3 million over five years towards rural health, $1.3 billion over 10 years for a National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan, $1.4 billion for new and amended PBS listings and $253.8 million for a new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
This spending will help the 60 per cent of people aged 65 and over with three or more diagnosed chronic conditions (one-in-four have five or more) plus the one-third of older patients living with chronic pain, which is mostly treated with medication.
In its Budget response on Thursday, Labor announced it would spend $2.8 billion on public hospitals from 2019-25, putting “more beds in emergency departments and on the wards so we can reduce the wait for people sitting in emergency rooms worrying about a child or a loved one who’s hurt or unwell,” said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Labor also said it would invest $80 million towards more MRI machines and licences, meaning greater access to Medicare-subsidised diagnostic imaging.
The YourLifeChoices Retirement Insights 2018 Survey revealed that around one third of the 6694 surveyed said that health was the main reason behind the timing of their retirement, with major concerns such as “having funds for any health-related conditions” and “being unable to take care of myself because of high costs”.
In the face of rising health costs, especially for older Australians, CHF says that a focus on accessible general practice and other primary care services will help all Australians receive quality care regardless of income.
“We also know from our Out of Pocket Pain survey on costs facing patients that there is a need for more support for elective surgery to be available at public hospitals to ensure all Australians can get the quality care they need,” said Ms Wells.
“Importantly this also demonstrates the need for better resourced and integrated health care in the community by GP-led teams to ensure those patients, particularly with chronic illness, get wrap around care from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other allied health practitioners. Importantly, we need to bring coordinated access to social care services into the mix as these often make a difference to how well people can follow through on a plan of care.
“The focus on primary care development in Australia has been faltering, though there is universal acceptance that it is the best answer for many health challenges of modern times.”
Is health your major concern in retirement? Do you find it challenging to meet healthcare costs? What suggestions do you have for mitigating the high cost of health?