News & Trends - Medical Technology

New Medicare Taskforce lacks industry voice

Health Industry Hub | July 29, 2022 |
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MedTech News: The Australian Medical Association (AMA) welcomed the federal government’s announcement on the establishment of a Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, which will decide priority areas for primary care funding. Health professionals and advocates tasked with solving long-standing issues with Medicare will meet for the first time today.

The Albanese Government is backing the Taskforce by investing $750 million to deliver the highest priority reforms to Medicare. The $220 million Strengthening Medicare GP Grants program will also see more resources invested in our GP practices.

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said the taskforce will provide recommendations on what high priority investments are required to support implementation of Australia’s Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan 2022–2032. 

“Following AMA advocacy during the election campaign the then opposition committed to providing almost $1 billion in funding to address issues in primary care – a commitment that was sorely needed,” Dr Khorshid said.  

“We pushed hard for the commitment to fund the ten-year primary care plan through the AMA’s plan to Modernise Medicare campaign and applaud the decision to provide the funding. We are also happy to be part of the conversation with representation on the taskforce.” 

Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said “Our health system is under pressure, our doctors need support, and we need to reduce pressure on hospitals. The average out-of-pocket cost for GP services has risen 60% over the past decade.

“The Albanese Government is committed to restoring affordable and accessible health care. Our Strengthening Medicare Taskforce are a diverse group of health experts and consumer representatives who will provide practical advice to help us start fixing our health care and make it easier for Australians to see a doctor.”

Annie Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said “Too often, the previous Morrison Government failed to include nursing and midwifery professionals in “consultations” with health stakeholders. As a result, because nurses and midwives weren’t represented at the table, their voices and input weren’t recognised in the formulation of equitable health policies for all Australians. We can only achieve this if we have genuine integration, consultation and collaboration with all key health stakeholders.”

While groups represented on the taskforce include a wide variety of healthcare organisations*, it is lacking representation from the medtech industry. Any changes to Medicare and funding models will have an impact on the underlying medical technology. If we are going to transform our healthcare ecosystem through the use of the innovative medical and digital technologies, the medtech sector needs to be included in the consultation.

According to the AMA, there is direct benefit to patients of investing in general practice to introduce a medical home, and under it, a range of specific and targeted programs. 

“The government’s funding is a strong down payment in the primary care system,” Dr Khorshid said.  

“It will mean investment in programs that improve patient access to GPs after hours and to allied health professionals at their usual practice such as nurses and mental health professionals through the Workforce Incentive Program. For many patients who currently see multiple healthcare professionals, across multiple appointments, and in multiple locations, this policy could save them a lot of coordination, time, and money.” 

Dr Khorshid said the way healthcare is delivered in primary care is changing and funding arrangements need to be modernised to reflect this. 

“A well-funded and resourced general practice sector is key to improving health outcomes, creating significant savings through better care, greater efficiency, and reducing the burden on other parts of the health system, including our public hospitals which are under significant pressure.” 

*The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce is chaired by Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler. He is joined by:

  • Dr Omar Khorshid, President, Australian Medical Association
  • Adjunct Professor Karen Price, President, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Dr Sarah Chalmers, President, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • Ms Leanne Wells, Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  • Dr Dawn Casey PSM, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Ms Karen Booth, President, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association
  • Ms Annie Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
  • Ms Amanda Cattermole PSM, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Digital Health Agency
  • Professor Stephen Duckett, Honorary Enterprise Professor, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Learne Durrington, Chief Executive Officer, WA Primary Health Alliance
  • Professor Adam Elshaug, Director, Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Steve Hambleton AM, general practitioner
  • Dr Walid Jammal, general practitioner
  • Dr Nigel Lyons, Deputy Secretary, NSW Health
  • Mr Antony Nicholas, Board Chair, Allied Health Professions Australia
  • Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart, National Rural Health Commissioner

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