Sorry Bill, but this was a Labor health budget
It must be utterly galling to Labor leader Bill Shorten and his team that after four years of the government attacking public spending as part of its 'debt and deficit disaster' narrative, the polls prove so dire for the Coalition that they promptly turn around and steal all of Labor's more popular health and education policies.
After dumping $2.2 billion worth of unlegislated budget repair measures from the disastrous 2014 health budget, on Tuesday night the government then went full socialist, newly embracing Medicare, splashing out on medicines and even returning ownership to the state government of a hospital it “saved” in a significant electorate leading up to the 2007 election. Give us Mercy indeed.
New Health Minister Greg Hunt has also pretty much dumped the talking points of his predecessors Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley, no longer carping on about how Medicare was unsustainable and instead galloping around the countryside to deliver his “rock solid commitment” to the institution.
Tuesday's budget also saw the government give in on MBS rebate indexation, boast about creating 65 new committees as part of its MBS review, actually fund some preventative health measures, force the medicines industry to cut its prices for old drugs to fund some new ones, and pork-barrel another electorally significant state through a super sexy proton beam facility and free insulin pumps for kiddies.
And the big one for the digital health sector, the expansion of the PCEHR ... sorry, MyHR, to a fully opt-out model. In a surprise move – we heard they had settled on the 2018-19 budget, not this one – the government is chipping in $374.2m over two years to go opt out. That includes an extra $100m or so to continue the operation of the system from 2018-19, but is still a pretty fair whack.
Tuesday night provided a reason behind the belated release of the Siggins Miller evaluation of the opt-out trials last Thursday, but one thing that has left many in the industry and the wider health community scratching their heads is the statement in the budget papers that the $375m for opt out will be partially offset by savings to the tune of $305m over four years, “including by delivering health system efficiencies through greater use of the My Health Record by general practitioners, specialists and hospitals”.
What those alleged efficiencies are and how they are going to come about we don't know but we are trying to find out. We'll let you know.
Our poll last week asked whether GPs should be paid through the MBS to create and upload health summaries. This was a tricky poll as there could be several reasons for saying yes or no but Pulse+IT readers voted in favour of the proposal two to one: 66 per cent yea, 34 per cent nay.
Tags: Budget 2017