LABOR’S PLAN FOR LONG-TERM HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM
A Shorten Labor Government will break the “boom and bust” cycle of national health policy by creating a powerful new expert commission to develop and oversee the long-term reforms needed to ensure every Australian can access affordable, high-quality health care.
If elected this year, Labor will establish a permanent Australian Health Reform Commission – an independent, legislated body comparable to the Productivity Commission that will help us forge a path to realising our vision of a truly universal health care system.
While Australia has one of the best health care systems in the world – thanks to the work of successive Labor Governments – we still face a range of serious challenges.
These include an ageing population with rising rates of chronic disease; growing barriers to care including high costs, long wait times and workforce shortages; and persistent inequalities for the disadvantaged.
These challenges have been understood for years and in some cases decades.
But the big, structural reform that’s so clearly needed has been repeatedly undermined by the short-term and combative nature of our political system.
At a federal level we have become stuck in a partisan cycle in which important, progressive Labor reforms are demolished by short-sighted Liberal Governments.
Just look at the way the current Government reversed Labor’s progress on hospital funding reform; tore up our agreement with the states to put prevention at the heart of our health system; and trampled all over our ambitious Medicare Local program.
Health reform efforts have also been undone by the constant blame and cost-shifting between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Australian Health Reform Commission will be a well-resourced body with commissioners appointed for a period of at least five years – giving them the time to develop rigorous and durable policy solutions that cannot be easily unpicked by one side of politics or another. It will transcend our three-year federal election cycle, while also finding ways to forge consensus across the Commonwealth-State divide.
It’s job will be to shepherd important innovations from their conceptual stage to reality – even when they take many years to deliver.
It’s core mission will be simple: to find ways to improve the health outcomes for all Australians. But its specific priorities will be directed through COAG.
Some of its early priorities will include how to reform primary care to deal with our ageing population and rising chronic disease burden, and how to deliver better access to public hospital specialists.
The Commission will deliver advice not just to the federal Health Minister but to state Ministers as well – meaning a federal government will not be able to simply conceal or ignore inconvenient proposals.
Critically, the Commission won’t just develop long-term reforms. It will also hold Governments accountable for delivering on them by reporting publicly on progress.
Labor has a long-term vision for our health care system: truly universal, in which every Australian can access the affordable, high-quality health care they need whenever they need it.
The Australian Health Reform Commission will help us realise that vision.
WEDNESDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2019