AMA calls for chronic disease care reform funding

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It is time for the Coalition to back its Health Care Home vision for complex and chronic care with a meaningful level of funding, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has said.

The association welcomed the Federal Government’s Health Care Home model, which aims to simplify a chronically ill patient’s care by allowing them to nominate one GP practice to coordinate all their medical, allied health and out-of-hospital services. Funding is to be provided based on clinical need.

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said the initiative could greatly improve outcomes for patients with complex and chronic illnesses, describing it as “potentially one of the biggest reforms we have seen to Medicare in decades”, but warned it would be doomed to failure without greater investment.

While $21 million has been allocated for a trial of the system, Dr Gannon cautioned that, with GPs already under substantial financial pressure, the government would have to make a far more significant commitment for the trial to be a success.

“At a time when medical practices are already struggling with the effects of the Medicare rebate freeze and other funding cuts, the government seems to expect that GPs will be able to deliver enhanced care for patients with no extra support,” he said. “This approach simply does not add up, and will potentially doom the model to failure. 

“GP engagement is vital if these reforms are to be implemented. As the chair of the government’s Primary Health Care Advisory Committee, Dr Steve Hambleton, recently pointed out, if the funding model is not right, GPs will not engage with the concept. We want the Health Care Home model to work, but the government needs to back it with appropriate funding.”

Dr Gannon said that as the population aged, more people were living with complex and chronic illnesses, placing increasing demands on the health system. “A properly funded Health Care Home model has the potential to both improve the care [such patients] receive and save scarce health funds,” he stated.

It was said that at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April, the Commonwealth failed to win state and territory agreement to redirect around $70 million a year from public hospital funding to support the Health Care Home trial, and the Federal Budget failed to deliver equivalent funding in its place.

Dr Gannon said this suggested the trial was now seriously underfunded.

“There is widespread support for the Health Care Home concept,” he commented. “General practice is the least expensive part of the health system and we know that with the right support, GPs can do more to keep patients out of hospital and avoid unnecessary costs. However, international evidence shows that this requires investment, and the government is clearly failing on this score.”

Dr Gannon noted that he had raised the issue of greater investment in general practice – including additional funding for the Health Care Home trial – with the Prime Minister at a recent meeting. 

Labor also recently announced it would commit $100 million over two years to support its own trial of a health care home. 

Commenting on this, Dr Gannon said, “While there is not yet enough detail of what is included in Labor’s policy, there is no doubt that this is the type of initial investment that the Coalition needs to consider.” more

OBA appoints new committee member

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has appointed a new member to its Registration and Notification Committee. 

The six-member committee, which is made up of both practitioner and community members, is the delegated authority to consider matters relating to individual optometrists, ranging from complex registration issues to optometrist notifications (complaints). 

After receiving several expressions of interest from optometrists for the committee’s three non-board member positions, the OBA has appointed Mr Neville Turner. 

Mr Turner will replace current committee member Mr Mitchell Anjou, whose appointment ends on 30 June. The five other existing committee members will continue on in their roles. 

As of 1 July, the committee will comprise the following members:

Non-board members: 
Mrs Nancy Atkinson – practitioner member 
Ms Stephanie Bahler – practitioner member 
Mr Neville Turner – practitioner member.

Board members:
Mr Ian Bluntish – chair, practitioner member
Ms Adrienne Farago ‒ community member
Dr Ann Webber – practitioner member. more

Labor leverages Medicare privatisation fears

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Labor federal opposition is holding fast with its claim that the Coalition is hell-bent on the destruction of the Medicare health scheme.

Multiple media sources reported that during Labor’s second policy launch, held in Brisbane on 26 June, opposition leader Mr Bill Shorten said his party would win the upcoming Federal Election by driving home the Medicare issue.

Labor has been claiming that Medicare is to be privatised by the Coalition, initially by privatising back-office claims processing.

The Coalition has denied that it plans to do so, demonstrating its determination by publicly abandoning its back-office claims processing policy.

Labor’s second launch was billed as a “save Medicare” rally, with Mr Shorten stating, “We will fight for Medicare and we will win.” more