Federal Budget must invest in health

6 May 2021

The Australian Government must use next week’s Federal Budget to commit to measures that ensure our health systems are resilient and effective now and beyond COVID-19. 

Further investment in our health care system is needed to ensure services are accessible and affordable for patients.  

The AMA identified key areas that need immediate funding commitments; 

  • permanent telehealth 

  • public hospitals 

  • aged care 

  • general practice 

  • private health insurance 

  • Indigenous health. 

Telehealth: The pandemic has revealed how vital and effective telehealth can be, yet the Australian Government has not committed to extend it beyond the end of this year. The AMA has been advocating for permanent Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates for patient telehealth consultations with general practitioners and medical specialists for years. 

Public hospitals: The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed how crucial our front line health workers and health services are, and how vital it is for them to be properly resourced and supported. Australia needs more support for our public hospitals that continue to face overwhelming demand. The AMA produces a Public Hospital Report Card every year – and every year we see hospital performance go backwards. Where we can, we should keep people well and out of hospital, and when they do need hospitalisation, we need a to relay on a system that can cope when demand increases. 

Aged care: The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety revealed the considerable need for reform. The AMA’s report Putting Health Care Back into Aged Care shows that making health care intrinsic to aged care will reduce reliance on the hospital system. Reforms must include better funding to encourage more GP services to aged care and mandate that registered nurses be available to nursing home residents, around the clock. 

General practice: General practice also needs extra investment to respond to the challenges of an ageing population and the growing burden of multiple health conditions. The MBS Review highlighted the importance of better supporting the provision of wound care in general practice, with patients often unable to access the best dressings for their clinical needs due to the lack of any funding for this critical service. At the moment, GPs are expected to carry the cost of providing dressings and bandages for patients who need wound care. The MBS Review recommended funding for a national wound consumables scheme. The Government must also deliver on its 2019-20 Budget commitment to spend an extra $448.5m to support general practice - funding that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Private health insurance: Australia needs comprehensive reforms that address the decline in private health insurance and put it on a sustainable footing for the future.  

Indigenous health: Better access to care for disadvantaged communities, including rural Australia and Indigenous Australians is crucial if we are to live a fair and inclusive society. 

There is much to be done and the AMA has urged the Government to put health at the front of its Budget priorities.