A plan to overhaul Medicare will be considered by leaders later this week as pressure mounts for the federal government to reform the “broken” health system.
Anthony Albanese confirmed the report by the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce will be handed to the national cabinet when it meets on Friday.
“We need to talk through the hospital system, the way that it works as a whole,” the Prime Minister said.
“It’s not surprising that people will always argue for increased funding.”
The states and territories have been lobbying the federal government to increase its share of funding for hospitals.
Despite acknowledging Medicare is in “worst shape it’s been in its 40-year history,” the Health Minister is reluctant to throw more money at the problem.
“Simply putting more money into the existing structures is not going to deliver the type of care modern Australia needs,” Mark Butler told ABC’s RN, adding Medicare required structural reform.
“We don’t just need to add more money to the existing systems, we need to change the existing system.”
What the Medicare reform will look like is yet to be decided, however the government is considering sharing the load of primary care between other health practitioners in a “blended” system.
The need for urgent reform comes after bulk billing rates plummeted by seven per cent in the past year, and are continuing to fall as general practice surgeries are left with no choice but to charge higher fees to supplement Medicare rebates.
Other options before the government include increasing the rebate to make seeing a GP more affordable.
In its pre-budget submission, the Royal Australian College of General Practitionerss called for bulk billing incentives to triple and increase patient rebates for longer and complex consultations.
Funding for enhanced primary care for the over 65s and support for patient follow up following an unplanned hospital visit is also on the RACGP agenda.
“We’re continuing to call on government to reinstate patient rebates for longer telephone consults, for mental health and GP management plans,” president Dr Nicole Higgins said.
“These services were unfairly taken away from patients and new research has found it’s hurting the most disadvantaged, those who are poorer, elderly, vulnerable and in need of complex care.
“Without urgent action to stem the bleeding and improve access to care for Australians, inequality, and the gap between rich and poor will get much worse.”
Fresh analysis undertaken by the Australian Medical Association revealed only three of 201 public hospitals delivered care in the recommended time frames.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, AMA president Steve Robson indicated he wanted to see the federal government up its share of hospital funding.
“We’re suggesting 50-50 Commonwealth state and territory funding,” he said.
“We need to scrap the artificial cap and we need to look at a return to pay-per-performance so that hospitals that perform well are rewarded.”
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