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19May/100

The Federal Budget, Health Insurance & An Election Year

Health is always an issue that the government, no matter which side they are from, use as a major element of every budget, especially in an election year, where promises to “buy votes” are common place (not to be cynical at all!)

So what did the Rudd government’s latest budget reveal in terms of Health Insurance? Read on to find out!

Budget Website

www.budget.gov.au, the government’s budget site, lists as the last point of its “Key elements” as:

“…funding historic reforms to the health system”.

But what exactly does that mean?

National Health and Hospitals Network

  • Total new investment of $7.3 billion over five years, and $23 billion over the rest of the decade
  • Additional $2.2 billion to meet the needs of our modern health system:
    • $355 million for GP Super Clinics
    • $417 million to enhance after hours services
    • $523 million to train our nurses
    • $467 million to introduce individual electronic health records

In many ways, this is a push for Health to be removed from the states' budgets, and added to the Federal budget.

eHealth

The eHealth sector will receive $466.7 million over the next two years, to establish electronic health records for all Australians.

Australians will be able, through the proposed eHealth system, to securely check their medical history online, anytime and anywhere, and permit their healthcare providers to access their health information too.

The eHealth records will provide healthcare professionals with clear, quickly available information which will reduce medical errors, avoid unnecessary tests and save scarce health resources.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon stated that the e-Health records “...will boost patient safety, improve health care delivery, and cut waste and duplication”.

It also reveals that as a result of the new e-Health record initiative “patients for the first time will be empowered with easy-to-access information about their medical history – including medications, test results and allergies – allowing them to make informed choices about their healthcare."

Privacy concerns aside, this is a fantastic initiative, and should have all the listed benefits, although the downside of privacy is certainly not something to scoff. In an age of FaceBook, though, one wonders if privacy matters to most these days.

Conclusion

A surprisingly subdued budget in an election year, with no real vote grabbing headliners in Health, and the $466.7 million eHealth initiative, although a good idea, is sure to meet with some resistance. This would seem to indicate that, for once, Health won't be a major election battleground, unless the Abbot’s opposition choose to make it an issue.

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