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

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Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (New Governance Arrangements) Bill 2016

In view of the Bill’s passage through the House of Representatives on 22 November, and its listing for debate in the Senate on 24 November, this FlagPost has been published in lieu of a Bills Digest. Following the recommendations of a review conducted in 2015, the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (New Governance Arrangements) Bill 2016 (the Bill) proposes that the current Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority (OTA) Advisory Council be replaced by a governing Board that also assumes many of the responsibilities currently assigned to the OTA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  Read more...

Consumer issues driving current private health insurance debate

Proposals to reform private health insurance arrangements are being canvassed by the Health Minister, Sussan Ley through a consultation process, including an online consumer survey. The Minister has also appointed Professor Graeme Samuel to consult with industry. According to the Health Minister’s press release, the main concern with current arrangements is that consumers are not getting value for money. Read more...

Closing the gap in Indigenous health

19 March is National Close the Gap Day, an annual event coordinated by Oxfam Australia to highlight the significant gap in health status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. For the origin of the day, the non-government campaign behind it and the Council of Australian Government (COAG)’s National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) and its ‘Closing the gap’ strategy see an earlier FlagPost. Extent of the gap According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians ‘start(s) at birth and continue(s) throughout life’ and is best illustrated by differences in life expectancy.... Read more...

Private health insurance in primary care: overview of issues

While the Government’s proposed patient co-payment for GP services has focused debate on whether some kind of ‘price signal’ for GP services is needed, private health insurers have been exploring options to provide their members with free or expedited access to GPs. Under current legislation, health insurers cannot provide insurance for which a Medicare benefit is payable. Despite these legislative restrictions, Medibank Private and other health insurers have been trialling different approaches to improve access to GP services for their members. In Queensland, Medibank Private has been running the GP Access Program in selected clinics which is aimed at improving members&rs... Read more...

The 'mind-body problem' and proposed DSP reforms

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System led by Patrick McClure was released on 29 June 2014. The report contains proposals for significant reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The reforms would see the DSP reserved for people with a permanent impairment and no capacity to work. Those people with a partial capacity to work would be placed on a lower tiered working age payment and provided with support to improve their employment capacity. The proposals represent an attempt to deal with the perverse incentive for income support claimants to apply for DSP, which has a higher rate of payment and reduced activity testing, rather than allowance payments l... Read more...

Mental health week--5 to 12 October

Mental Health Week, commencing on 5 October, provides an opportunity for a national focus on mental health issues and coincides with World Mental Health Day which falls on 10 October. A range of community events are being planned and coordinated at the state level to raise awareness and help build mental well-being. Events are diverse and include morning teas, art exhibitions, sporting activities, workshops, balls, seminars and fundraisers and will be held in schools, workplaces, community facilities, galleries, ovals and parks.  The ABC has also programmed ‘Mental As’ to draw attention to mental health issues. Mental illness is common according to the Australian Bureau of... Read more...

Australia’s WTO plain cigarette packaging case: an update

Australia is a respondent in five World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes regarding the introduction of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (TPPA). The disputes were commenced by Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia (the Applicants).  Read more...

Syria: losing ground in the fight to eradicate polio

Polio resurfaced in Syria late last year, and has now been found in Iraq as well, leading to concerns that this could reverse gains in international efforts to eradicate the virus. A side effect of the conflict in Syria, now running for over three years, is that for many children vaccinations have lapsed.  According to the BBC‘Vaccination rates in Syria fell from 91 per cent of children before the war to an estimated 68 per cent in 2012. But those are national figures. In rebel-held territory, where all the polio cases so far have occurred, immunisation levels are much lower’. In some cases, the Syrian Government has been accused of deliberately excluding rebel-held areas ... Read more...

Sale of Medibank Private: key arguments

The Minister for Finance has announced that the Government will sell the government-owned private health insurer Medibank Private Limited (MPL) sometime in the 2014–15 year, via an initial public offering (IPO). The long-expected decision follows the recommendations of a scoping study commissioned by government, but not publicly released. Most estimates put the value of MPL at between $2.5–$4 billion or higher. The Medibank Sale Act 2006 allows the sale to proceed without further legislation and limits individual ownership to 15% for at least 5 years. The Minister indicated that current arrangements around premium setting would remain, while the scoping study found no evidence t... Read more...

Explainer: paying for GP services

This post has been revised on the 21st August 2014. Recently the debate around healthcare has focused on paying for GP services. The proposal for a patient co-payment is one example. Other proposals include capitation, blended payments and managed care. Arguments over the best funding models for primary care may appear to have little relevance for most patients, but how we fund primary care services can impact on the quality of care, as explained in this paper from the Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (PHCRIS). Currently, most primary care services like GP visits are funded through Medicare. GPs receive most of their remuneration through fee-for-service (FFS) payments... Read more...