Alternative health solutions by New Matilda

Fundamental reform needed to restore an equitable and efficient health system

Online magazine and ‘think tank’ New Matilda has released a health policy that presents some ‘alternative’ solutions to those offered by Australia’s mainstream political parties.

This feisty new voice in the health policy debate calls for an end to short-term patch ups of our health system, in favour of fundamental reform of Australia’s health policies to ‘restore universalism, and to achieve improvements in both equity and efficiency’ of our health systems.

A Health Policy for Australia claims ‘the short-termism of successive governments has given Australia a set of health policies which are increasingly complex, inequitable, inefficient and incoherent’.

Rather than the ‘patch ups’ that have characterised health policy for many years, the policy paper recommends a fundamental re-design of the Australian health system – one where universalism should be restored and embedded.

It sees the private sector maintaining a strong role in the provision of services, but warns of problems when private financial agencies – health insurance funds – become involved in the funding of health care.

‘Government support of health insurance funds is clearly damaging our health system,’ it said.

The policy recommends the move to a single, universal health insurer but does not propose that we have a free system. Payments should be according to means, it said.

It also recommends a major reorientation of health services in Australia through the staged development of multidisciplinary community health centres, enabling delivery of a more integrated range of services.

While retaining Commonwealth responsibility for funding and standard setting, health programs need to be delivered through joint Commonwealth/state administrations in order to move away from the ‘wretched jurisdictional dysfunction between state and federal programs’.

‘A health policy for Australia’ was developed with input by health professionals and service users, with discussion papers contributed by health professionals and academics in public policy and health including John Menadue, who was Chair of the NSW Health Council in 2000; John Dwyer, founding Chairman of the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW; and Ian McAuley, lecturer in Public Sector Finance at the University of Canberra.

When released it was lambasted in Parliament on 13 October 2006 by  Commonwealth Health Minister Tony Abbott for criticising his support of private health insurance – one of the signature policies of the Howard government.

New Matilda is an independent publisher of a weekly online magazine that provides commentary on current issues and news. Its policy thinktank Reclaiming our Common Wealth was launched in June 2006 to inject an independent voice in policy debates. A Health Policy for Australia is the first in a series of major policy papers to be published.

You can access a full transcript of A Health Policy for Australia at www.newmatilda.com

New Matilda special offer

The New Matilda health policy portal publishes opinion, analysis and ideas from health policy experts and topic specialists.

For a limited time, New Matilda is offering readers of The Lamp a discount subscription of just $55 a year (usually $88).

Go to www.newmatilda.com/institutional/default.asp and enter the access code ‘Lamp6’. (code is ‘case-sensitive’). New Matilda will then invoice you for $55. Offer available until 14 December 2006.

For further information or any queries you may have, please contact New Matilda at (02) 9211 1635 or email enquiries@newmatilda.com