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Only the Coalition has a credible, affordable plan for health: Ley

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Only the Coalition has an affordable and sustainable vision for the future of the nation’s health care system, according to Health Minister Sussan Ley.

Seeking to frame the debate over health policy in terms of economic and financial management, Ms Ley told the AMA National Conference Gala Dinner that although Labor and the Australians Greens had unveiled policies with hefty price tags, only the Coalition had the fiscal discipline to be able to afford its health promises.

Labor has made health a centrepiece of its bid to win the 2 July election, announcing a succession of attention-grabbing policies including a $2.4 billion commitment to end the Medicare rebate freeze, $971 million to scrap increases to PBS co-payments and safety net thresholds, and $35 million for palliative care.

Not to be outdone, the Greens have matched Labor’s policy to resume Medicare rebate indexation, and have promised an extra $4 billion for public hospitals, $4.3 billion to support chronic disease treatment and $2 billion for domestic violence services.

But Ms Ley claimed that neither Labor nor the Greens had shown how they could afford their commitments and claimed the Coalition was the only party with a credible and affordable plan.

The Minister recently likened the approach of her political opponents to the use of a placebo: “Simply throwing more money at the system is tantamount to ‘placebo policy’: it may make some feel better but it won’t treat the cause.”

Ms Ley said a key focus of the Government was to lower the barriers patients face by reducing fragmentation across the health system and improving the coordination of care.

She said the Health Care Homes initiative was trialing a new way of funding the treatment of chronic and complex illnesses to ensure patients received integrated and coordinated care.

The Minister said the recent decision to inject an extra $2.9 billion into public hospitals was accompanied by a greater focus on patient outcomes, quality and safety.

Ms Ley recently suffered a hiccup on the campaign trail when she admitted that she had been overruled by Treasury and Finance in arguing against an extension of the Medicare rebate freeze.

But she told the AMA dinner that she looked forward to continue working with the medical profession to develop policies and identify efficiencies and savings so as to ensure that, in a constrained budgetary environment, every health dollar was used to maximum effect.

Adrian Rollins