Whiff of an election
With rumblings of an early (or at least earlier) double dissolution election gathering pace in Canberra, the AMA is refining its pre-election strategy. The key policy issues are well documented in the AMA’s pre-Budget submission, which can be read on the AMA website.
The focus of AMA’s advocacy remains unchanged. This includes ensuring adequate Commonwealth funding of the public hospital system, with changes required to the proposed arrangements with the states that were announced in the 2014 Federal Budget.
The second concern is with the sustainability of primary care as the most cost-effective and efficient part of the health system. The ongoing freeze to Medicare rebates has not stopped the rise in bulk billing rates, but it does mean that general practitioners have to make difficult choices about the way they deliver optimal care to their patients.
The third concern is ensuring the value of the private health system, which will be informed by the several reviews currently underway at the instigation of the Federal Minister for Health. These include the review of the MBS, the review of private health insurance and, as a corollary to that review, a review of the benefits paid by private health insurers for prostheses listed on the Prostheses List.
The AMA also remains concerned with the gap in Indigenous health outcomes, and the impact that a series of Budget cuts have had on areas of health most relevant to Indigenous communities.
Elsewhere in this edition of Australian Medicine is a report on the recent forum convened by the AMA on the heath of asylum seekers in detention, particularly children.
The forum was well attended by doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, with speakers highlighting the health issues faced by detainees. The forum endorsed the call by the AMA for four outcomes, including independent oversight of the health of asylum seekers in detention.
A small number of members have queried the AMA’s involvement in the debate about asylum seeker health. There is clear Federal Council policy that backs the AMA speaking on the issue – not on the question of Australia’s border protection laws, but on the more focused issue of health care.
The AMA’s National Conference is coming up at the end of May, with early registration now available via the Federal AMA website – www.ama.com.au.
One of the key events is a debate about assisted dying, and this presents an opportunity to explore the views of AMA members. The debate forms part of the regular five-year review of current AMA policy. The session will be facilitated by Tony Jones of Q&A fame.
Nominations have been called for several awards which are given as part of National Conference. These include the AMA Woman in Medicine Award and the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award, as well as several more specific public health awards. I encourage you to consider nominating suitable candidates for these prestigious awards.