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Greens make multi-billion commitment to chronic care

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General practices would receive $1000 for each chronic disease patient enrolled with them under a plan outlined by Australian Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale.

Upping the ante on Coalition policies regarding support for the treatment of chronic illness, Senator Di Natale said the Greens would inject $4.3 billion over four years to boost care.

Under the plan, not only would practices get an extra $1000 for each patient with a chronic illness who voluntarily enrolled with them, but $2.8 billion would be allocated to being allied health services within the public system and bolster Primary Health Networks to coordinated team-based care.

“Stretched GPs need a system which is set up to really support them in working with a team to better plan and organise care, and to improve outcomes for chronic disease patients over time,” Senator Di Natale said.

The Greens leader said the $4.3 billion commitment amounted to a “dramatic refocusing of our primary care sector to effectively respond to chronic disease”, and would establish a blended payment system that would complement the existing fee-for-service structure.

“As a former GP myself, I know the pressure that doctors are under to focus on responding to the immediate ailments of patients,” Senator Di Natale said. “But chronic illnesses are complex, and effective management requires long-term treatment and monitoring of symptoms by a range of health practitioners, working together.”

The Greens announcement follows the Government’s Health Care Homes initiative earlier this year, under which medical practices would receive bundled payments to provide integrated and coordinated care for patients with complex and chronic illnesses.

The Government has committed $21 million to a two-year trial of up to 200 Health Care Homes involving around 65,000 patients.

The AMA has welcomed the Health Care Home proposal but is critical that not more money has been allocated to the trial.

Senator Di Natale echoed the criticism, arguing that although the Health Care Homes initiative showed a welcome focus on an important area of care, “the trial is inadequately resourced and lacks any real detail”.

“Our plan is detailed, commits the funding necessary to be a success, and in the long-term will lead to savings as we better manage chronic disease and avoid hospital admissions,” he said.

Adrian Rollins