The latest federal budget for the 2014-15 period will commit $20 billion towards health and medical research in Australia, which will go some way towards the improvement of healthcare delivery.
This will be good news for those comparing health insurance cover as it means the quality of medical innovation in Australia will be supported. According to Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, the government's $20 billion contribution will create the world's largest medical research endowment fund.
When mature, the endowment fund will double the amount of current funding going directly towards medical research, creating an additional $1 billion per year. The government expects this level of distributions to be achieved by the year 2022-23.
The fund will be created from January 1, 2015. Money raised for the fund will go primarily towards the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which supports research efforts in nine National Health Priority Areas.
The money will come from health savings made elsewhere in the budget, as well as the effects of a new patient contribution system towards health services.
For example, under the new budget patients who were previously bulk-billed will need to contribute $7 towards the cost of standard GP consultations, as well as out-of-hospital pathology and imaging services. Meanwhile, the government will provide approximately $38.90 for each service, based on a standard GP consultation and a Low Gap Incentive.
Of the $7 contributed by patients, $5 will be put towards the Medical Research Future Fund.
The budget has also outlined changes to the Medicare Safety Net scheme, public hospital funding arrangements and other areas of the health sector.
In addition to the research fund, the budget will also provide $140 million for the Future Fellowship scheme, which is designed to support new and emerging scientists in Australia. The budget also confirmed a previous commitment to allocate $200 million towards dementia research.
The Australian Society for Medical Research has welcomed the news of the government's focus on the future fund. With a population projected to become increasingly older and all the conditions associated with ageing, sustainable investment in healthcare services is essential.
"For every $1 invested, health and medical research returns an average of $2.17 in health and economic benefits," ASMR President Dr Roger Yazbek said in a statement released May 14.
"Committing to a long term investment strategy for health and medical research will help all Australians to live longer, healthier and more productive lives, while also reducing pressure on the health system."