The Federal Budget is one of the most significant dates of not only the political calendar, but the financial one too. Every industry waits with bated breath to see if this is the year they see that much-needed funding boost, or if cuts will put a further strain on resources.
As utopian as it would be for every part of the country to get everything they asked for from the Budget, the reality is that there is only a limited amount of capital that the government has to work with.
The healthcare industry is no different: private health insurers and public system advocates have all pitched in to voice their views on the new Budget. Let's take a look at what they have to say:
A Budget with bite
Some form of dental plan is a very popular feature for those looking at signing up for private health insurance, and no wonder: The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that about a third of Australian adults suffer from untreated tooth decay. It gets even more significant with children, with half of all 12-year-olds having decay on their permanent teeth.
A significant portion of the new budget was put towards battling this issue, to the tune of $1.7 billion over the next four years funding a new Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme. However, not everybody is on board with it. The Australian Dental Association described the new model as being a "Hunger Games-style scenario", due to the first-come, first-served basis that the federal government funding percentage is provided upon.
However, the new scheme could be better described as a consolidation of current schemes. Though the total funding will take a slight hit, the replacement of the Child Dental Scheme with the new Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme will hopefully improve accessibility and efficiency by drawing all the dental arms together.
Half a step forward
"While welcome, this measure goes less than half way to addressing the cuts to expected public hospital funding."
In the 2014-2015 Budget, the public hospital sector had to deal with a significant funding cut, potentially putting strain on the industry over the last 24 months. However, it looks like there has been a shift in priorities this year, as $2.9 billion is set to be spent on public care, somewhat restoring the resources that had previously been removed.
Some people have said that, while a good start, it is not enough to fully plug the funding hole that public hospitals have fallen into.
"While welcome, this measure goes less than half way to addressing the cuts to expected public hospital funding from 2017 to 2020 which were flagged in the 2014 and 2015 Budgets," explains Alison Verhoeven, Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association CEO.
"The improved support for hospital funding until 2020 has provided some relief for the hospitals sector, [but] concerted efforts will be required to reduce the increasing demand for hospital services."
Left in the cold
However, one of the most major announcements for the healthcare sector this year was the continuation of the Medicare patient rebate freeze, which will now extend to 2020 under the new Budget.
"The Medicare patient rebate freeze extension means that health is going to cost more for all Australians, but particularly the poorest, the sickest, the vulnerable, and the disadvantaged," explains Professor Brian Owler, Australian Medical Association President.
"The costs of running a medical practice – rents, staff, technology and equipment, indemnity insurance, accreditation – continue to rise year-on-year, and doctors have no choice now but to pass the costs on to patients."
This extension could impact the demand for medical services, as people find that they become more expensive over the next few years, particularly for those who are not already covered with private health insurance.
The Budget this year has had plenty of clout, from filling hospital funding holes to consolidating dental schemes. Not everybody has been happy about it, so you may find that this quickly becomes a major election issue in the coming weeks. To get a better handle on your healthcare, make sure you contact HICA on 1300 44 22 01 and let us help you find the insurance that is right for you.