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 â€œbuy votesâ€ are common place (not to be cynical at all!)
So what did the Rudd governmentâ€™s latest budget reveal in terms of Health Insurance? Read on to find out!
www.budget.gov.au, the governmentâ€™s budget site, lists as the last point of its â€œKey elementsâ€ as:
â€œâ€¦funding historic reforms to the health systemâ€.
But what exactly does that mean?
National Health and Hospitals Network
- Total new investment of $7.3Â billion over five years, and $23Â billion over the rest of the decade
- Additional $2.2Â billion to meet the needs of our modern health system:
- $355Â million for GP Super Clinics
- $417Â million to enhance after hours services
- $523Â 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.
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,Â through the proposed eHealth system,Â 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 â€œ...will boost patient safety, improve health care delivery, and cut waste and duplicationâ€.
It also reveals that as a result of the new e-Health record initiative â€œpatients for the first time will be empowered with easy-to-access information about their medical history â€“ including medications, test results and allergies â€“ 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.
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 Abbotâ€™s opposition choose to make it an issue.
Saving money on health insurance is important, but the strategies to do so are not so obvious. Here are seven ways to control your health insurance costs:
- Make sure you are familiar with all of the rules of your health insurance plan, and that you follow them. Your plan will have rules regarding pre-authorisation and provider networks. If you fail to adhere to these rules, you could find that you have little or no coverage available to you for your treatment. Do not make assumptions about the plan. Read your policy terms and ask questions of your planâ€™s representatives. Remember that a lack of information can cost you money.
- You may be able to opt out of certain coverage features that you do not need. Mental health services, chiropractic services, and maternity stays are often not needed by everyone. In some states, health insurance companies are allowed to offer basic health insurance policies that include only mandated items of coverage. Choosing such a policy is a less expensive option.
- If you are married, and both you and your spouse have health insurance, check each policy to see if spousal benefits are available. If so, you can eliminate the other one as coverage under spousal benefits is available to both the husband and the wife.
- Be prepared for emergencies by becoming familiar with the full aspects of your health insurance coverage. If when an accident occurs you are familiar with which hospitals and physicians are included in your network, you will be in a better position to make confident decisions in an emergency. This information should be kept handy in case you need it quickly.
- Saving money on prescription costs will help your overall health insurance strategy. Simple things that you can do include asking for free samples from your physician, using generic drugs, or investigating the availability of reduced cost medications. There are typically eligibility requirements for programs such as these as they are primarily designed for those with low income or no insurance coverage.
- Do you have any bad habits? If you quit smoking you will become a more desirable candidate for insurance coverage. Smokers automatically pay higher premiums. You wonâ€™t see immediate results, as it may take about 3 years to qualify for better rates enjoyed by non smokers.
- Exercise, and get fit. The obese will pay more premium than smokers, the aged, or alcoholics. Getting in shape will not only benefit your wallet, but will help you live longer and healthier. Healthy people experience less stress also.