Who has the best health policy?

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has released a scorecard on how the major parties’ health policies stack up in this federal election campaign, and how they rate against the CHF’s vision for community health.

Healthcare and Medicare were voted in the top three election issues that matter most to retirees in the Friday Flash Poll: Which election issue matters most to you?

When it comes to which party has best addressed healthcare and Medicare, the Greens have made the most ground, says the CHF, with Labor coming in second and the Coalition third.

While the CHF says the parties have promised a lot in terms of short-term fixes for the health system, chief executive Leanne Wells says they could do better.

“The parties have promised lots for health, but what is lacking is a coherent vision to foster long-term strategies, including preventive health, integrated care and support for patient-focused care and consumer leadership in health,” said Ms Wells.

“The scorecard rated the major parties’ responses to 37 detailed measures across eight policy areas recommended by CHF in Priorities for the 2019 Federal Election: Making Health Better  launched on 23 April. The Greens scored the most positives, 21, followed by Labor with 16 and the Coalition with seven.

“It has been encouraging to see significant promises from Labor in areas like primary and integrated care reform and expanded dental benefits for pensioners – and for this to be a down-payment on their vision for universal access to dental care for all Australians under Medicare. The Coalition scored best on early childhood, youth and family measures, but not at all on the issues to do with the social determinants of health.

“The Greens scored well across all eight categories and particularly on prevention, including its support to increase spending on prevention to five per cent of health funding.

Labor received moderate praise for its dental care package – which should appease more than 90 per cent of older voters surveyed in our Friday Flash Poll: How important is denticare to you?

“It is clear the time has come to ensure oral and dental health is treated like any other form of health,” said the report.

“The Coalition offered nothing new for dental health other than a continuation of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, and in their response to us see it sitting firmly in the private arena with private health insurance as the funding mechanism.

“The ALP’s Pensioner Dental Plan has taken welcome first steps with a targeted program for older people, but this falls well short of what is needed although we note it was described as ‘the next step towards Labor’s vision of universal access to dental care in Australia’. This, combined with the ALP’s pledge to negotiate with the states to maintain their existing spending on public dental health services, will substantially increase access.”

The CHF says a new model for healthcare is required.

“Australia needs to break out of the dysfunctional status quo that results from federal-state divided health funding responsibilities. To a large extent the big parties are still captive to hospital-dominated plans that chew up most of the health budget,” said Ms Wells.

“Health is more than hospitals and a stronger focus on community-based, integrated care would in many cases yield happier patients, better outcomes and at lower cost.

“We support Labor’s plans for a health reform commission, which hopefully would work towards a more consumer-focused and integrated health system and advocate that it should have consumer commissioners as part of its establishment should Labor form government.

Read the full health scorecard with commentary.

Which party do you think has best addressed issues with the health system?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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