Budget 2017: Health

Under pressure in the last election the government have delivered a health budget that seeks to restore the political ground lost to the opposition with a host of policies including: a removal of the medicare freeze, funding the NDIS, Commonwealth funding for hospitals across Australia and funding for medical research.

To help pay for the changes they’re also introducing a half a precent increase to the Medicare levy

Health Reform

Most reforms will be run at an expense to the government, yet at the same time the government is using health reforms to pay for other reform.

The government is committing to fully fund the NDIS and they’re doing this by increasing the Medicare Levy by half a per cent. The reform will raise 8.2bn in revenue and the government will commit another 900 million to complete that funding commitment.

Treasurer Scott Morrison wants every Australian to contribute here as it’s been described by the government. as a national responsibility

They’re also putting 2.8bn into hospitals funding including a 730  million dollar payment to to ensure the future of the Mersey Community Hospital in Tasmania

In addition to the hospital funding they’re also unfreezing the medicare rebate over the next three years allowing people to get a larger amount of money back when visiting GP’s: bulk billing will begin to be indexed by 2017, Standard consultations by GPs and specialist attendances from July 1 2018, Specialist procedures and allied health services from 2019

All of which costs the government $1bn over the forward estimates.

The narrative for health funding

This budget for health is a clear move to negate the mediscare campaign Labor ran against the coalition in the 2016 election as government that didn’t value medicare and was considering privatising it.

They’re now bringing in reforms to negate this idea by removing the medicare freeze and overturning the much maligned zombie measures around health.

New funding for medical research

The government has announced new funding of 65.9 million dollars to invest in future medical research and they’ve taken a politically astute move here of not writing it off as expenditure against the deficit.

They’ve done this by drawing funds from the medical research future fund meaning it doesn’t add to the current government deficit. The funding isn’t committing to anything specific medical research projects yet, but will cover support for preventive health, clinical trials and accelerating research investments.

Is health a winner or loser in this budget?

Probably a winner: There are increases to funding that will please people across the board including the medicare freeze being lifted, funding for hospitals and funding guarantees around the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The coalition have delivered these proposed changes to reclaim the lost votes to Labor and delivered a pre-election budget in the sense they’re trying to put more into health then they’re taking out. The increase to the medicare levy of half a percent will pay for a host of these changes and sees Health have money come in without it being taken out.

The area they might be pressed on is that the opposition might offer more funding for health, particularly mental health services where the government has put a relatively small $115 million in new funding.

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