Free blood tests on the table

Labor has reignited the ‘blood feud’ that began in 2016 with its Mediscare campaign, by promising a $200 million increase in bulk-billing incentives, including free blood tests for older Australians and cancer patients.

“A Shorten Labor government will ensure vital blood tests are protected from Scott Morrison’s health cuts – investing $200 million to keep pathology tests free for older Australians and Australians with cancer,” said Mr Shorten.

“Blood tests are the frontline of treatment for cancer and serious diseases. They are critical not only for diagnosis, but to track whether a treatment is working or not.”

In Labor’s fifth health announcement since the election was called last Thursday, Bill Shorten also confirmed an extension to his signature $2.3 billion cancer care package after being forced to deny it was underfunded by $5.8 billion.

Labor’s free pathology tests should cover three million tests needed each year by cancer patients on top of the 20 million needed by older Australians.

In what is proving to be a battle over economic management and health spending, Labor attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his “savage cuts” to hospitals, health and Medicare. Drawing the Coalition into this territory – which almost cost former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the 2016 election – has the Coalition right where the ALP wants it, says a senior Labor source.

The Coalition returned fire with questions about the costings of Labor’s cancer care package, which led Mr Morrison to accuse Labor of not being able manage money.

Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed Health Department analysis suggested that if Labor were to fund all existing cancer care over the next four years, it would end up $5.8 billion short.

However, according to The Australian, Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King wrote to Health Department secretary Glenys Beauchamp “who confirmed the department had not costed Labor’s policy”.

In other election news, Labor has decided against further tax cuts for more than 1.5 million workers. According to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Labor deliberated on a tax reform package for Australians earning between $90,000 and $120,000 but has instead opted to redirect the billions of dollars the cuts would have cost towards the budget bottom line.

Do you think Labor can cover the cost of its big promises?

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