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Reforming our healthcare system – what we can expect from our government

4 min read
30 Jun 2016

The Liberal and Labor parties have both announced a range of health reforms that they will implement if elected and so, with the Federal election occurring on 2 July, it’s important that voters know how the outcome will impact on their health needs and expenses. breaks down some of the changes that, if elected, each party has promised to make.

What we have been told so far: Liberal Party

The Liberal party has promised $10.4 billion to go towards the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as well as $30 million to go towards creating a National Cancer Screening Register. Medicare funding will increase by 3.4 per cent in 2016-2017 to $22.7 billion and hospitals can expect $17.9 billion in funding.

The funding continues as the government promises $21.3 million in funds for a trial of “Health Care Homes” to keep people with chronic diseases and complex health conditions out of hospitals. The Liberal Party will also be putting $2.1 billion towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

More recently, Health Minister Sussan Ley announced categorising health policies into gold, silver and bronze to help consumers better understand what they are covered for. Additionally, there will be standard definitions for medical procedures across all insurers so consumers can simply compare policies. has already implemented a similar categorisation system, with consumers having the option to choose between top, medium, basic or limited level of private hospital cover when comparing insurance policies.

But even with the system in place, the proportion of Australians likely to take out private hospital insurance in the next 12 months declined from 11% to 9%[1] according to data from IPSOS Mori.

Additionally, the proportion of consumers saying they were likely to switch health insurance declined by two percent over the past two years (from 13% to 11%).

The most common reasons for this switching decline included health insurance being too expensive, the benefits of taking out insurance were not great enough and not knowing if the policy was the best deal.

“With the new medical definition changes and our categorisation system, consumers will be better placed than ever before to understand the health policy they are signing up to. Australians will be able to compare and switch their cover more easily and with more confidence,” says a spokesperson for comparison service

“The government’s current reforms will also educate consumers on the benefits of private health insurance and the added extras to their healthcare.”

What we have been told so far: Labor Party

Currently with the Medicare Levy Surcharge, singles have to take out health insurance once they earn over $90,000 and families too once earning over $180,000. These income thresholds will be frozen at that level until 2021.

However, opposition leader Bill Shorten announced his campaign promise of spending $12 billion over the next decade to unwind the freeze on Medicare rebates. The Labor government would reverse the Medicare freeze from the start of 2017.

Of late, the Labor Party announced that if elected, they will cut the private health insurance rebate to natural therapies. The decision would save $180 million over four years and $704 million over a decade. However, according to results from IPSOS Mori, almost four in ten Australians[2] (39%) said they have used alternative practitioners/natural therapies in the last 12 months.

The proportion of adult Australians visiting a naturopath, acupuncturist, homeopath, aromatherapist, herbalist or other alternative medicine practitioner in the last 12 months has also increased to 21%.

Young couples were the highest users of the mentioned alternative therapies at 46%, while older singles and couples were the lowest users with one third of people indicating they had used one of these providers in the previous 12 months.

Those with private health insurance seem significantly more likely to have used an alternative health practitioner in the last 12 months, with 45% having private health insurance versus 31% without private cover.

“From the IPSOS Mori health data, it can be deduced that nearly half of Australians with private health insurance use an alternative health practitioner and natural therapies. With such a high proportion of policy holders turning to alternative therapies, Labor’s announcement may affect a large proportion of Australian health insurance holders,” says a spokesperson for comparison service

“From the data, we also found that income had an effect on natural therapy usage. 37% of those in the low income group used one or more of the alternative therapists in the last 12 months,” says the spokesperson.

“The cut to the natural therapies rebate could see those in the lower income group struggle to find other health-related services for particular health issues.”

It looks to be an interesting few years of income freezes, funding injections and rebate cuts. So remember that when you vote, you’re also voting for your healthcare.


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[1] IPSOS Mori 2015
[2] IPSOS Mori 2015

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