The Health Minister’s admission that her government has spent the last two years doing nothing to reform health care in Australia is a damning indictment on the Abbott Government.
Instead of pursuing genuine health reforms the Abbott Government has instead wasted two years attacking primary care through its ill-advised GP Tax.
The Government also trashed Labor’s landmark health and hospital reforms, and slashed preventative health programs which had the potential to drive down long term health costs.
The Government has attacked Australia’s health system at every level including by:
- Abandoning the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars, and abolishing the Australian National Preventive Health Agency
- Attempting to introduce a GP Tax three times and instead implementing it through cuts of more than $2 billion to Medicare rebates
- Abolishing the Health and Hospitals Fund, cutting $1 billion reserved for essential health infrastructure
- Cutting more than $500 million in public dental programs
- Cutting more than $57 billion from public hospitals
- Abolishing every Medicare Local
- Shutting Health Workforce Australia
- Its ongoing plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the Medicare Safety Nets
- Charging every Australian more for their medicine through its $1.3 billion hike in PBS co-payments
- Numerous cuts to mental health programs
Now, in a Pythonesque moment of self-reflection, the Minister has come to the conclusion that “there are real risks to standing still as a nation on these necessary reforms.”
The problem for the Minister is that any reforms emerging from the review of Primary Care are certain to fail while the Abbott Government continues with its four year freeze on Medicare rebates for GPs.
The Abbott Government cannot credibly expect GPs to trust it to reform general practice, while at the same time attacking their practices and seeking to drive down bulk billing and force them to increase fees to survive.
Given this Government’s record, it is obvious its review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule is simply another excuse to cut Medicare.
Labor believes in reform of Medicare that will best serve patients through a focus on rewarding quality care. Medicare needs a government willing to reinvest in it, not an ideologically driven hit squad who see it only as a cost.