Sunday, October 25, 2009

Consumers have our say on national health reform

Nicola Roxon met with around fifty representatives from the consumer movement on Friday 23 October 2009.

HCCA was well represented with consumer representatives as well as HCCA President, Adele Steven. I attended in my capacity as HCCA Executive Director.

Antonio Russo, Chair of Consumers Health Forum (CHF), welcomed the representatives and the minister. He commented that CHF considered this forum to be unique and powerful opportunity. He went also commented:

  • the final report of the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission accords with CHF strategic plan, and
  • CHF is pleased that the Government is taking health performance seriously and that the Government is backing the rhetoric about health consumers by holding the forum today.
The Minister then spoke, providing a snapshot on the reform commission report and the Commonwealth Government's ambitious agenda of health reform. She pointed to a number of initiatives the government is progressing. These include:

  • $500m in investments for sub-acute care
  • $750m to take pressure off Emergency Departments
  • $1.1b for training doctors, nurses and allied health workers
  • $600m elective surgery waiting list reduction plan
  • 36 GP superclinics with 26 contracts signed
  • MBS and PBS access for NPs and midwives

The report identifies actions that can be taken against three reform goals:

  1. Tackling major access and equity issues that affect health outcomes for people now;
  2. Redesigning our health system so that it is better positioned to respond to emerging challenges; and
  3. Creating an agile and self-improving health system for long-term sustainability.

The Minister spoke about a number of areas: hospitals, primary health care, prevention and areas of special need.

new access targets, new way of funding, separating emergency and elective care,
strengthen sub-acute care, commonwealth to assume responsibility for outpatient
Primary care: commonwealth leadership, more primary care centres, more roads leading to community health services rather than ED in hospitals, voluntary enrolment with a single provider is a contestable idea, better integration, multi disciplinary
10 hear goals and how to engage the whole community, making prevention a focus in
the health system, more information to help better choices

The Minster said:

"whatever we do in the health, it doesn't come cheaply. there are high needs and demands as well as high costs"

Cost of reform has been calculated to be between $2.8 - $5.7b per year and this does not include estimated $3.9b for denticare scheme (through 0.75% increase in medicate levy).

The Minister threw out a number of challenges for consumers including the funding mix and the separation of elective surgery and emergency departments.

The Minister said that the treasury advice on the mix of funding for health care between out of pocket, government funding and private health insurance is about right and recommend maintaining the balance. This is certainly a point of contention with consumers. We pay through our taxes, through private health insurance premiums and then again with out of pocket expenses (co payments).

After the Minster finished her presentation we had an hour for questions and comments from the floor. I will post on the issues raised by consumers later in the week.

The Minsiter's press release is available online.

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