Review must strengthen, not dismantle, Medicare

The country’s largest health union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has welcomed plans for a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), announced by the Federal Minister for Health today.

The ANMF also welcomed the Minister’s statement of commitment to “protecting … Medicare to ensure universal access remained for all Australians long term”.

“For this to be ensured into the future, what’s needed is genuine structural reform as has been proposed by health groups for many months now, rather than knee-jerk responses and quibbling about funding for Medicare,” ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said.

“Medicare is an extremely efficient means of funding health care and continues to serve people in urban locations very well but inequities do exist in access and outcomes for the disadvantaged and those in rural and remote areas. And, an increasing number of people with chronic health conditions receive fragmented rather than coordinated care.

“The ANMF is pleased the Government has finally responded to feedback from health groups and plans to engage doctors, patients and other health professionals in the reform process. But we must ensure that nurses and midwives are included in these consultations and that the ANMF, as the voice for more than 240,000 nurses and midwives, is represented on the Primary Health Care Advisory Group.

“Genuine and robust engagement with health stakeholders and therefore improvements in the health system, will only occur if nurses and midwives and allied health professionals are consulted as widely as doctors’ groups.

“While this review is a productive step forward by the Government, it will take time. To protect the health of Australians in the interim, the Government must reverse its funding cuts to health and lift the freeze on the Medicare rebate.

“The Government cannot expect to slash $57 billion from the States and Territories’ health budgets without seeing dramatic repercussions, such as fewer hospitals beds and longer surgery waiting times.

“For these reasons, the Government must restore health funding in the upcoming Budget as a matter of urgency. Otherwise it will be patients and their families who will ultimately suffer.”


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