The big items we already know, but there is more worth noting
This is the Albanese government’s first May budget. All told, $137.6 billion is going toward health, aged care and sport.
While most of the key items for health have been announced over the previous weeks, the $3.5bn allocated over five years to triple the bulk billing incentive was kept under wraps till budget night. This will mean that metro-based GPs will get $20.65 when they bulk bill patients who are under 16 or who hold a Commonwealth concession card, instead of $6.60. In the most remote regions of Australia, they will receive an extra $39.65.
So was the $98.2m allocated for a rebate for consults longer than 60 minutes, a long-sought acknowledgment of the complexity of some GP appointments.
Medicare items will also receive a boost in July and in November, amounting to a 4% increase.
But where the budget giveth, the budget also taketh away.
The government estimates that it will save $301.9m over three years by “streamlining and modernising” chronic disease management items.
This may be tied to the long-anticipated voluntary patient enrolment system to be called MyMedicare, which will use a blended funding model to encourage “wraparound primary care” for people who frequently end up in hospital.
A sum of $99m over four years to “connect frequent hospital users to a general practice to receive comprehensive, multidisciplinary care in the community which will reduce the likelihood of hospital re-admission” appears to be the seed funding for the scheme.
The implementation of MyMedicare has been allotted $19.7m over four years and $3.2m a year ongoing.
Primary Health Networks will receive $79.4m over four years, which will be used to improve access to multidisciplinary care teams for patients with chronic conditions.
Despite a passionate last-minute campaign from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, 60-day dispensing for 320 PBS-listed medicines was included in the federal budget.
The change will allow patients to access double the amount of medicines per script, saving an estimated $1.2bn in dispensing fees over five years. Mr Butler pledged that any savings from the measure would be reinvested into community pharmacy, and the budget papers uphold that promise.
Pharmacists can also expect $377.3m in funding over the next four years to help run the PBS-funded opioid treatment program and can now deliver National Immunisation Program vaccines at $19 a pop.
Following the report by Dr Pradeep Philip into Medicare compliance sparked by contentious media reports last year, a new taskforce will be established in the Department of Health “to identify and disrupt instances of fraud and serious non-compliance before they occur”.
This taskforce will, according to the budget papers:
- limit the duration of backdated patient-billed claims through practices, to prevent fraudulent claims being submitted through practices;
- permit appropriate data sharing with Services Australia to allow entities and bank accounts associated with known fraud to be blocked from receiving claims payments; and
- enable the Department of Health and Aged Care to audit providers by removing the requirement for external consultation with peak bodies to occur before issuing a notice to produce.
Already announced was continued funding for Heart Health Check, $19m for HIV testing, treatment and information, and $350m for community pharmacist outreach into residential aged care
The big news for cancer was announced before budget night – $263m for a lung cancer screening program and $238m to address inequity in cancer outcomes for First
Nations people. There’s a big focus on smoking and vaping: $737m for control measures, including $141m to extend the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, $29m on quit programs, $68m on a public health campaign, and taxing all tobacco products at the same increased rate.
Also worth noting:
- $118.2m over five years for clinical services including genomic testing for recurrent breast cancer risk and subsidies for egg, sperm and embryo storage for cancer patients of reproductive age
- $40m over four years for the National Clinical Quality Registry Program
- Gardasil will be available to eligible patients up to the age of 25. The recommended dose schedule for some patients will reduce from two to one.
- New/amended medicines listed on the PBS include: Nivolumab (Opdivo) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with oesophageal cancer or gastroesophageal junction cancer, Asciminib (Scemblix) for chronic myeloid leukaemia, nivolumab + ipilimumab for Stage III or IV malignant melanoma, and Apalutamide (Erlyand) for metastatic hormone sensitive prostate cancer.
- $31m over two years to trial enhanced training arrangements to support international medical students working in rural and remote locations
- $18.5m for testing genetic variants in patients suspected of having either a myeloid or lymphoid haematological malignancy and $16.8m for a new MBS item for an EndoPredict gene expression profiling test to determine risk of recurrent breast cancer
- $59.5 million over 5 years to fund ICT infrastructure for a national worker screening and registration scheme from 1 July 2024
- $429m over two years to modernise My Health Record (MHR), including a new National Repository platform for better data sharing across healthcare settings, investment to improve the sharing of pathology and diagnostic imaging information and increasing allied health professionals’ connection to MHR
- $325.7m over four years in continued funding for the Australian Digital Health Agency