In revving up his election spiel Shorten said spending on health was an investment, not a cost. He says investment in health is basic to economic growth. It would be an important battleground if Turnbull would engage. The pointy end is that Labor is choosing to invest in Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme rather than spending money on company tax relief.
Turnbull just says it’s unfunded, which is a lie, and he knows it.
Labor will end the freeze on Medicare payments to GPs, started as a temporary measure in 2012 by Labor and extended by Abbott/Turnbull to 2020. The policy would apply from 1 January 2017, at a cost of $2.4bn over the next four years, and $12.2bn over the decade.
On the box Matthias Corman said the bulk billing rates were over 80% and had continued to rise under the LNP. That surprised me, but may not be far from the truth. An article in the Oz (paywalled, but Google Sean Parnell Bulk-billing rates have continued to rise under the Coalition) says:
- the overall bulk-billing rate was 78.1 per cent, compared with 77.5 per cent for the same period the year before.
For unreferred GP attendances, excluding nurses, the rate was 84.8 per cent, compared with 84 per cent previously, suggesting the larger corporate clinics have absorbed the added financial pressure.
A 2015 survey found that 71.17% of respondents reported that their most recent GP visit was bulk billed. Seems the tendency to bulk bill is related to the number of GPs in the area, patient characteristics and the nature of the visit.
A Fact Check from 2013 shows that it was high and rising under Labor, about as high as it is now. The fact check was done to test the claim made by Tanya Plibersek before the 2013 election:
- “The bulk-billing rates are at historic highs now. Visits to GPs are 82% bulk-billed. When Tony Abbott was minister it was 67%.”
It seems Plibersek was cherry-picking, as this graph shows:
The blue lines mark the time Abbott was health minister. From the graph it looks as though Abbott may have done something to change the trend, but I don’t know what.
Nevertheless if the rate has only risen a couple of percentage points under the present government, Cormann’s statement was misleading. It looks as though bulk billing rate is pretty much flatlining, and the talk is that the system is under severe strain. The full fee is about double the Medicare rebate. If the freeze continues a co-payment of $15 is being spoken about for a standard GP visit.
Now Shorten has also pledged to axe the 2014 budget cut to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which has been booked as saving $1.3bn but is blocked by the Senate. It’s part of the $18 billion worth of ‘savings’ technically in the budget, but in limbo because of a hostile senate.
- Under the government’s plan, general patients would make a $5 co-payment and concession patients would pay an extra 80 cents on each prescription and there are also increases to the scheme’s safety net threshold.
Dumping that plan would cost $3.6 billion over 10 years, which again Labor is offsetting against the company tax cut.
Here’s Shorten spruiking his plans:
- The Liberals keep saying that Australia has to choose between good schools, decent healthcare, and fair pay on one hand or a growing economy.
It’s is a false choice the Turnbull conservatives love so much: that you can only have a strong economy or you can only have a fair society but you can’t have both.
We in the mighty Labor Party, we understand that growth and fairness are not mutually exclusive – they are not enemies opposed.
Each depends upon the other and reinforces the other.
Labor knows investing in people is the best growth strategy that Australia ever had and ever will have going forward.
Certainly a healthier population will be more productive.
Shorten also says the LNP “allocated $5m for a secret government taskforce to investigate the fastest way to privatize parts of Medicare.”