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Past President’s reflections

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Providing the best care and containing costs depends on sharing and applying information

The rate of change in health care delivery and the need to provide more affordable health care continues to accelerate. Health is a major concern for Australians now and into the future, making the politics of health an important issue at both state and federal levels.

I joined the leadership team of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) just after one prime minister vowed to fix the nation’s public hospitals or take them over; and as I leave 5 years later, we have another prime minister vowing to fix primary health care with the proposed copayments for general practice and diagnostic imaging and pathology testing.

Both leaders clearly had laudable aims, with Tony Abbott intending to shift some of the costs and more of the responsibility for spending decisions onto the individual. History tells us that both may end up with compromises that don’t quite deliver on their original intent.

Australia’s problem is that health care costs are rising faster than the gross domestic product (GDP). This inevitably means a bigger spend in straight dollar terms and also as a proportion of GDP. The implication is that Australia will have less of its GDP to spend on education, roads and welfare.

At the same time, as the cost pressures on health spending are rising, the public’s access to and demand for…