A raft of health measures have been announced in order to ensure the sustainability of the health care system and aged care.
As previously announced, the GP co-payment will not go ahead, and the proposals to redefine time requirements for consultations and reduce rebates by $5 for GP consultations have also been reversed.
The government will establish a taskforce to review the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) over the next two years and a Primary Health Care Advisory Group will investigate new funding models to deliver better care, particularly for chronic conditions.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
As well as providing $1.6 billion for new and amended listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the government is in the final stages of negotiating with industry on reforms on pricing and remuneration to underpin the sustainability of the PBS.
The government will provide funding for a one-year agreement to replace the existing National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services. The agreement will support the provision of dental health services to adults who rely on the public dental system.
To advance medical research, $10 million will be released from the Medical Research Future Fund, but for what and to whom is the question.
From 1 January 2016, rental income exemption under the aged care means test for those residents who are renting out their former home and paying accommodation costs by periodic payments will be removed. Existing protections such as annual fee caps and lifetime fee caps remain.
From 1 February 2017, funding will be allocated to the consumer based on their care needs. This will allow consumers greater choice in deciding who provides their care.
Electronic health records
An investment of $485 million will be made to improve the electronic health records system. Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) will be renamed My Health Records.
How do these measures benefit retirees?
Certainty about the costs associated going to visit the GP or when having diagnostic tests is to be welcomed. As is the simplifying of the Medicare Benefits System, however, this is likely to have winner and losers. And greater access to cheaper drugs on the PBS can only help retirees. Dental services may seem to have been given a boost, but this is only one year of funding that replaces the rescinded National Partnership Agreements with states and territories. Further tweaks and changes to the aged care system may be intended to level the playing field and provide better services, but as the system is understood by so few as it is, expect yet more confusion.