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:

General practice

  1. 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.
  2. Teaching payments will double to GPs who provide teaching opportunities for medical students over 5 years under the Practice Incentives Programme.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Research

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Phillip Island, Victoria, will receive $2.5 million to be spent on health infrastructure.

Primary care programmes

  1. Medicare Locals will be replaced with Primary Health Networks from 1 July 2015 (see our article regarding Medicare Locals below).
  2. The Mental Health Nurse Incentive Programme has been extended for another year.
  3. The establishment of the 13 remaining Partners in Recovery organisations will be deferred, while the 48 existing organisations will not be affected.
  4. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will be fully implemented, consistent with the National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines.