MS Australia welcomes some sweet choices for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the 2018-19 Australian Budget, but mixed with some sour notes too.
We make the following specific observations:
MS Australia welcomes the announcement of additional funding for medical research, especially in the areas of genomics, expansion of clinical trials and making Australia a global destination for medical research jobs.
MS Australia will continue to work hard supporting and advocating with MS Research Australia to ensure funding flows from these opportunities to MS-related research.
It was welcome to hear “multiple sclerosis” referred to in the Treasurers’ budget speech last night. This was in reference to $1.5 billion funding for the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and in particular for ocrelizumab (Ocrevus®) for relapsing remitting MS being approved for listing on the PBS.
We note this welcome addition to the PBS was actually announced in February.
Initiatives in the Rural and Regional Health Strategy are welcome, especially those encouraging more doctors into rural and regional locations. This may benefit people living with MS in places where there is little or no access to healthcare professionals and services.
This year’s Budget papers include a clear commitment to fully funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and we hope this commitment ends the uncertainty created in the community when the Medicare levy increase tied to funding the NDIS was abandoned in April.
MS Australia will join other peak disability groups in keeping a vigilant watch to ensure all sides of politics remain committed to fully funding the NDIS now and into the future.
The staffing cap at the National Disability Insurance Agency remains in place in the Budget and this remains a concern as funding flows to external, for-profit businesses, rather than resourcing the Agency to build expertise in meeting the needs of people living with chronic degenerative conditions such as MS and deliver an NDIS that provides genuine choice and control.
MS Australia is encouraged by adjustments to the aged care system and welcomes in particular the additional 14,000 home care packages, though we understand more than 100,000 were waiting for home care packages as of December 2017.
There is no increase in Newstart which is sour news for those struggling to make ends meet on this payment, especially for those living with MS with a disability who have been moved off the Disability Support Pension to Newstart.
It’s clear that people with MS have been considered in the deliberation of the Commonwealth in formulating this year’s budget.
We acknowledge the Commonwealth for this. But there is work to be done if this is to be the generation of scientists, researchers, political leaders and people with MS to beat this disease, as should be the case.