The Federal Budget 2014-15 was released on 13 May 2014 to mixed response. We have compiled a list of key Budget announcements/proposals which, if implemented, will significantly affect the health sector, namely:
- Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates will be reduced from 1 July 2015, resulting in a $7 patient contribution for standard GP and out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services.
- Teaching payments will double to GPs who provide teaching opportunities for medical students over 5 years under the Practice Incentives Programme.
- The Australian General Practice Training Program will be modified to allow for 300 more places. However, new places may require co-funding by GP practices and state government places may receive less. The Prevocational General Practice Placements Program will cease. Funding for existing regional training providers will cease and a fresh tender conducted, which may cause training providers to merge.
- Over 175 general practices in rural and remote settings will receive infrastructure grants over the next 3 years to be spent on additional consulting rooms and teaching and training space.
- The Medical Research Future Fund will be established and its net income will fund $276.2 million in research over 3 years from 1 July 2015. The fund will receive $1 billion from the Health and Hospitals Funds (which will cease) along with other savings generated by the Health Portfolio (eg from patient contributions and copayments).
- Dementia research will increase with the Government providing $200 million in funding over 5 years to, among other things, help establish a National Institute for Dementia Research.
- Funding will be provided to develop a nationally consistent approach to how clinical research trials are overseen and conducted, and to streamline NHMRC grant application and assessment procedures.
Hospital and health funding
- The funding guarantees for public hospitals, created by the COAG National Health Reform Agreement 2011 will cease. Government contributions to hospitals will be indexed from 2017-18.
- Phillip Island, Victoria, will receive $2.5 million to be spent on health infrastructure.
Primary care programmes
- Medicare Locals will be replaced with Primary Health Networks from 1 July 2015 (see our article regarding Medicare Locals below).
- The Mental Health Nurse Incentive Programme has been extended for another year.
- The establishment of the 13 remaining Partners in Recovery organisations will be deferred, while the 48 existing organisations will not be affected.
- The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will be fully implemented, consistent with the National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines.