– by Ryan Morgankleinman
Aside from calling Medibank now and then to be abruptly informed that your current health cover can’t do much for the gaping hole in your molar, most of us don’t really keep track of healthcare policies in Australia.
With the humdrum of actual health legislation, buzzing unseen beneath the smokescreen of elaborate nationwide campaigns, it can be downright confusing trying to keep proper track.
This is handy for the Turnbull government, as behind the high profile spin of eradicating ‘the scourge of ice’ from Australia, Health Minister Sussan Ley has moved swiftly on with the Abbott government’s planned cuts of $793 million from the Department of Health’s ‘Flexible Funds’.
So, what exactly are Flexible Funds? Flexible Funds were first created in 2011 as a way of consolidating 159 already existing Health and Ageing programs into 18 larger, more easily managed funds that could reduce red tape in government health care.
The Government’s Department of Health website says they were created to ‘increase flexibility and more efficiently provide evidence based funding for the delivery of better health outcomes in the community’.
You’d be forgiven for feeling perplexed about government intent when reading this though. Bad cuts to funds have forced major public health groups to have a crisis meeting at Canberra’s National Press Club.
Speaking at the meeting, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia Michael Moore, outlined some areas that would suffer as a result of the almost $800 million worth of cuts.
Chronic disease (a problem often cited as the biggest single challenge to Australia’s health care system) is currently under threat, alcohol and other drug treatment, some rural protection funds, dementia treatment, and indigenous healthcare are also all potential candidates for losing money.
Moore mentioned that many politicians claim that funds have simply ‘not been renewed’, but that this is no more than a smoke and mirrors argument, as non-renewal signals closure of the funds.
Cuts to the funds seem meaningless, especially when considering the financial burden that chronic disease and obesity put on the state. Direct-health care costs from chronic disease and obesity amount to over $80 billion a year, but the huge gap between the Turnbull government’s hardball rhetoric and the reality of public healthcare funding has not stopped widening.
Public hospitals may lose out on up to $50 billion worth of funding over the next ten years and health care in general has been flagged as an area that stands to lose $1.7 billion over the next four years.
The attacks on public health will continue, with Turnbull and Ley speaking of big game when it comes to tackling Australia’s drug problems, but then taking money from the prescient areas when it comes to foundations of these very issues.
You can keep up to date with the real state of affairs of Australian health care with Croakey, here.
Featured image by Better Bills; Map image by InterNations and apple image by IPSOS.