Last night’s Budget handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey is a real mixed bag for people with Multiple Sclerosis, Acting CEO of MS Australia Deidre Mackechnie said today.
There are 23,000 people living with MS in Australia. There is currently no known cure for MS and living with the disease is very tough. That’s why Government policy is so important.
“We have worked hard all year advocating to the Government a better understanding of the challenges people with MS face.
“We are pleased some of these lessons have been learned. That’s important. That’s a relief for people with MS.
“But there are also both missed opportunities and matters of concern.
On behalf of people with MS the messages we send to the Commonwealth are:
- MS Australia is relieved that the GP co-payment has not been revived but we remain concerned that measures to tighten the PBS safety net mean the Government is still wanting to increase the PBS co-payment by an additional cost of five dollars per medical script. MS Australia would be seeking an exemption from this requirement for people with MS.
- We welcomed the listing of Lemtrada on the PBS from 1 April for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS, but we are still concerned about the cost of medicines and disappointed at the lack of additional funding to expand and streamline the PBS so people diagnosed with MS have access to safe, effective and affordable medicines.
- We welcome the long term commitment to the Medical Research Future Fund and the commitment to start making grants quickly. MS Research Australia is well placed to make great use of this funding, and any contributions to MS Research Australia will have high yield given the giant strides being achieved in research into MS. The overall reduction in the size of the Fund, and how it will be funded, is of concern.
- The investments in the NDIS are very welcome. The $143 million over four years to improve IT so participants can better connect and interact with the Scheme is of practical importance as it will assist those in rural or remote areas and generally improve the quality of services.
- MS Australia however does not see the provision of the necessary funding for specialist early intervention and support services. We had pushed for a Budget that would provide funding to better identify those people with MS best placed to receive early intervention support through the NDIS.
- The investment of $33.7m over four years in an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services for carers and funding of $10.9m in the first year for the establishment of a national carer gateway (a website and a national call centre) is welcome news, and acknowledgement, for those family and friends caring for people with MS.
- MS Australia is also pleased about the Government’s decision to provide $485m over four years into a revamped electronic medical records system. Our hope is this will help to ensure a person’s health information is more accurately transmitted between GPs, neurologists and hospitals and should result in better management of chronic medical conditions such as MS.
- Cuts to public hospital funding announced in last year’s budget that are still proceeding, and the continuing freeze on Medicare rebates that will no doubt lead to increased out-of-pocket costs for people with MS remain as concerns for MS Australia when we are looking for primary health care measures to strengthen the overall health system.
- Finally, MS Australia welcomes the news that there are no announcements of additional hurdles for people with MS accessing the Disability Support Pension.
On behalf of people with MS we indicate our intention to continue to push the Government on all of these fronts.