Billions promised to overhaul Medicare
Anthony Albanese has signed off on $2.2bn in funding to springboard a major Medicare overhaul as he agreed to almost halve the growth rate of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Pharmacists and nurses will be asked to play a greater role in order to improve access to after-hours care, while a new “blended” funding model will be introduced as part of the biggest shake-up to Medicare in its 40-year history.
The Prime Minister said state and territory leaders endorsed the measures at a bumper national cabinet in Brisbane on Friday, where health was put “front and centre”.
Part of the reforms include the introduction of a new voluntary Medicare patient ID to better understand why people are turning up to emergency departments across the country.
Royal Australian College of GPs president Nicole Higgins welcomed the changes, which she said would enable GPs to keep practices open for longer hours.
But the doctor warned expanding the role of pharmacists to deliver medicines and vaccines for children over five “must be approached warily”.
“This is not about us versus them … the RACGP is right behind GPs working hand in glove with a range of allied health professionals including pharmacists, and we believe they should be supported within general practice,” she said.
It comes as a new report from the Australian Medical Association found the public health system is in its worst shape for more than 15 years.
The annual report card found emergency department and essential surgery waiting times have blown out and called for an overhaul of the National Health Reform Agreement between state and federal governments.
A special meeting of the national cabinet will be held in the last three months of the year to discuss further reforms to the health sector.
Less than a fortnight out from the budget, Mr Albanese conceded the out-of-control cost of the NDIS was unsustainable.
The scheme, which will cost $35bn this financial year, will balloon out to $97bn per year by 2033.
National cabinet agreed to slash the growth rate to 8 per cent, down from the current 14 per cent, over the next three years but the Prime Minister failed to convince the states to pick up more of the costs.
Mr Albanese said leaders remained “absolutely committed” to the scheme.
“The trajectory of NDIS expenditure is just not sustainable into the future,” he said.
Another $720m to fund staff increases and reforms to push down costs were also announced ahead of the May 9 budget.
The federal government is on track to fund 82 per cent of the scheme’s cost by 2033, well north of the 50:50 split agreed to when the scheme was established a decade ago due to the states’ contribution being capped at 4 per cent annually.