AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18

1 Mar 2017

Health Funding – Invest Now, Profit Later

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) statement in December confirmed the Government’s desire to get the Budget back to surplus as soon as it possibly can.

The AMA agrees with and supports Budget responsibility. But we also believe that savings must be made in areas that do not directly negatively affect the health and wellbeing of Australian families. Health must be seen as an investment, not a cost or a Budget saving.

We agree that there are greater efficiencies to be made in the health system and in the Health budget, but any changes must be undertaken with close consultation with the medical profession, and with close consideration of any impact on patients, especially the most vulnerable – the poor, the elderly, working families with young children, and the chronically ill.

There is currently a lot of work being undertaken in this area with reviews of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, Prostheses List, and Private Health Insurance.

And no doubt Health, Finance, and Treasury bureaucrats are going over the health programs with a fine-tooth comb looking for savings to offer up in the May Budget.

But the AMA urges caution – and care. The Government must not make long-term cuts for short-term gain. Patients will lose out.

In this Pre-Budget Submission, the AMA is urging the Government to invest strategically in key areas of health that will deliver great benefits – in economic terms and with health outcomes – over time.

Primary care and prevention are areas where the Government can and should make a greater investment. General practice, in particular, is cost-effective and proven to keep people well and away from more expensive hospital care.

The Government must also fulfil its responsibilities – along with the States and Territories – to properly fund our public hospitals. So too, the Government must deliver on its commitments to improve the health of Indigenous Australians.

When looking to improve the Budget bottom line, governments have in the past looked at increasing the Medicare Levy. If the Turnbull Government considers this move, the AMA urges that any rise in the Levy does not hurt the neediest and disadvantaged and that revenue raised remains within the Health portfolio. Increasing the Medicare Levy would raise only a fraction of the total Commonwealth Health budget.

In this submission, the AMA provides the Government with affordable, targeted, and proven policies that will contribute to a much better Budget bottom line in the coming years. More importantly, the AMA’s recommendations will deliver a healthier and more productive population to drive further savings into the future.

Health is the best investment that governments can make