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Labor plans long-term reform

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Labor has committed to establishing a national commission to develop and drive reforms to the health care system if it wins the 2 July election.

In a speech to the AMA National Conference, Shadow Health Minister Catherine King announced that a Shorten Government would form the Australian Healthcare Reform Commission to end a “boom and cycle” in health reform.

Ms King said solutions to some of the “big and difficult questions in health care” extended well beyond the lifecycle of any one Parliament, but were often a casualty when government changed hands.

“This boom and bust cycle in health care reform is not helping find, let alone embed, solutions to problems such as how we provide funding and incentives for things the health care system does not do – avoiding hospital admissions, for example,” Ms King said.

“These and many more challenges…require long-term thinking and long-term solutions.”

The Shadow Minister said the Commission would assume the functions of many organisations abolished or downgraded by the Coalition Government, including the National Health Performance Authority, the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency and Health Workforce Australia.

Under Labor’s plan, the Commission would develop and evaluate proposed reforms, advise Federal, State and Territory governments, and would be given the resources to implement change.

“It will be tasked with rolling out agreed structural reforms to our health care system, including changes to funding agreements and payment systems,” Ms King said.

In addition to its other work, the Commission would assume the functions of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, and would include a new Centre for Medicare and Healthcare System Innovation, charged with developing and evaluating new payment and service delivery models.

Ms King said the Centre would include the functions of the current MBS Review, and vowed that any savings realised by the review process would be reinvested in new models of care.

Under Labor’s plan, the Commission will report to the Council of Australian Governments through the standing committee of health ministers.

Ms King said the body would be funded from the consolidation of existing agencies and resources within the Health Department.

Adrian Rollins