The Health Budget - a summary of pre-budget speculation and advocacy

Parliament house flag post

The Health Budget - a summary of pre-budget speculation and advocacy

Posted 9/05/2011 by Rebecca de Boer

On Budget eve, the Government has already made several announcements about the contents of the 2011-12 health Budget. There have been some announcements regarding capital expenditures. These include $220 million to Tamworth Hospital, redevelopments to Mt Gambier and Port Lincoln Hospitals, regional cancer centres for Albury/Wodonga and Geelong, $57 million for regional Western Australia and a Youth Health Hub for Colac.

It has also said that a comprehensive dental plan will not be funded this year, although a 'down-payment' will be made. It should be noted that all of the health infrastructure projects that have so far been announced are the result of successful applications to the regional priority round of the Health and Hospitals Fund which was allocated five billion dollars in the 2008-09 Budget.

In addition there has been the usual media pre-Budget speculation about possibly stimulated by some well-placed ‘leaks’ which can often serve to ‘soften up’ the electorate. However, this speculation can also serve as a rallying point. This year has seen protest marches about the proposed cuts to medical research, an alliance being formed of consumer groups, the pharmaceutical industry and doctors in protest about the Government’s changes to the PBS and an online advocacy campaign in support of the National Bowel Screening Program.

Speculation about the health budget includes:

  • that the National Health and Medical Research Council’s budget might be reduced by $400 million (or around 19 per cent). This prompted letters to both the Prime Minister and Minister Roxon asking for a two year moratorium. It has been argued that such a measure would adversely impact on the future academic and research workforce. Although research funding expenditure by the NHMRC has increased over the past ten years (see Figure 4, p. 32) Research Australia has argued that in real terms, health research funding in Australia is beginning to decline.
  • that mental health will be the ‘centre-piece’ of the 2011-12 Budget. Figures of $2 billion in additional funding over four years with a total spend of $3.5 billion over five years (it has been suggested that the majority of funding will be outside the Forward Estimates in 2014-15 and 2015-16) have been mooted. Both the Government and the opposition have responded to growing stakeholder and community support for increased spending on mental health. The Gillard Government had previously indicated that reforms to aged care, mental health and disability services would be a priority for the second term. In March this year, long term advocates for improved mental health services released a Blueprint to Transform Mental Health Services which detailed the '30 best buys' across the mental health sector. The total expenditure of the proposed package was estimated to be around $3.5 billion over five years. The Coalition also released a Mental Health Plan which reflected some of the elements of the blueprint, although its total proposed expenditure was around $1.5 billion. The Coalition announced an extra $430 million in April this year for employment services for people with a mental illness, a mental health research centre and the establishment of mental health commission to provide advice to government as well as improve accountability in the mental health sector.
  • that the Government may re-introduce a measure to means test the private health insurance rebate. Parliament failed to pass such a measure in the past. The Australian Health Insurance Association which represents the majority of private health insurers in Australia has been opposed to such a measure. Debate has continued about the likely impact of such a measure with an ANOP/Newspoll suggesting that around 175 000 consumers would withdraw from private health cover in the first year of implementation, and others such as Mark Fitzgibbon the head of nib (one of the major funds in Australia) disputing this. Further analysis can be found here.
  • that the Government will reveal how savings to Government of around $550 million over four years will be realised following the recent agreement with the pathology sector to deliver such savings. Growth in pathology funding is expected to be capped at five per cent per annum but no details have yet been announced. Minister Roxon has suggested that the Agreement will allow for greater transparency in the setting of fees and will ensure that only ‘clinically required’ tests are conducted. In previous years, details about specific Agreements have been made public in the Budget (most recently the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding between Medicines Australia and the Commonwealth)
  • that some rebates on the Medicare Benefits Schedule may be reduced, for example Vitamin D testing. At the same time there are those in support of increasing the rebate for radiology.
  • that it is unlikely that any new medicines will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Successive government have previously used the budget to detail new listings of medicines on the PBS. The Government appears to be standing firm in its decision to defer the listing of products on the PBS.
  • that funding of around $52.6 million on dental health is likely to be announced with additional funding in future years as circumstances allow. Measures such as bonuses of $15 000 to trainee dentists who complete their training in the public system and specific programs that target rural and regional areas have been mooted.
No pre-budget period is complete without calls for additional funding or suggestions for savings. Doctors groups have argued that additional payments are required to implement the Government’s e-health agenda. Other doctors groups have suggested that additional funding for Medicare Locals is required to achieve the Government’s primary care agenda. On the other hand the president of the AMA has suggested the funding of Medicare Locals and GP Super clinics should not come at the expense of access to medicines or diagnostic services. Other stakeholders have put forward suggestions for a single national scheme for all sub-acute medical products (for example oxygen supplies, continence products) and health surveillance technologies (for example alert systems, self-monitoring devices), for funding for the nursing workforce and for a consumer education campaign prior to the roll-out of the personally controlled electronic health record.

In pre-Budget commentary Minister Roxon has promised that ‘every bit of health expenditure’ is being closely examined and that there is no magic pudding. There have been some notable omissions from this public advocacy and speculation: no mention of possible additional funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, changes to the funding arrangements for aged care, health workforce (particularly in aged care) or what can be done to tackle the social determinants of health or improve access to medical services. A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlighted that around one million Australians do not see a doctor because of cost and a similar number of people did not fill prescriptions for the same reason. Poor health outcomes and increased costs to the health care system in the future are the risks of failing to address this. There are no easy solutions to these issues but as has been highlighted on FlagPost previously, a strategic plan for the financing of health could help with prioritisation.

(Image source:

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment taxation Sport illicit drugs Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force welfare policy Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States higher education people trafficking school education aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA United Nations federal budget health financing emissions trading gambling Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme forced labour Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Fair Work Act child protection people smuggling debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure ALP New Zealand Australian Crime Commission Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament slavery by-election political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Afghanistan Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs poker machines doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing paid parental leave European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing election timetable citizenship Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel violence against women domestic violence disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation family assistance expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens money laundering servitude Special Rapporteur Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days baby bonus DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions

Show all
Show less
Back to top