MS Australia (MSA) welcomes some good choices from the Government leading to positive outcomes for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the 2017/18 Australian Budget.
We express relief that punitive policies adopted in previous budgets have been rejected.
And we continue to seek assurances from the Commonwealth about the implementation of the NDIS and the allocation of funding from the Medical Research Future Fund so we can stop MS once and for all.
MSA makes the following specific observations:
· We are hopeful that the increase of 0.5% to the Medicare Levy from 2.0% to 2.5% (from July 2019) for the sole purpose of funding the NDIS ($9.1 billion will be credited to the NDIS Savings Fund Special Account over the next four years) will quarantine the NDIS from future funding arguments in Cabinet and Parliament.
· We welcome the $209 million over four years to establish a new, national, independent regulatory body, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. It will begin operation in January 2018, replacing state-based quality and safeguarding arrangements.
· We seek further information about the implications of the reduction in funding for Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) from $132 million (in 2020-21) to $118 million of ILC funding in Western Australia.
· Whilst the announcement that Disability Employment Services (DES) payments will be indexed from July 2019 is welcome, we are disappointed that MS employment service providers will have to wait two more years before receiving the benefit.
· An additional $24 million over four years to implement the new DES framework and funding model is also important and welcome.
· MSA will seek more information on the implications of the phased re-introduction of indexation for Medicare benefits schedule ($1.0b over 4 years) including:
o GP bulk billing incentives from 1 July 2017
o Standard consultations by GPs and specialist attendances from 1 July 2018
o Specialist procedures and allied health services from 1 July 2019
o Certain, new, diagnostic imaging items from 1 July 2020
· Changes to PBS statutory price reduction arrangements to make medicines cheaper
· Improved access to medicines through new and amended PBS listings and support for community pharmacies
· Commitments for Primary Health Networks funding being locally tailored for after-hours health services based on community need
· Funding for psychosocial services for people with mental illness who do not qualify for NDIS, though recognising that this is contingent on matching commitments from the states and territories
· Other mental health measures such as telehealth for people in rural, regional and remote areas, mental health research and suicide prevention support programs
· Almost $375 million (over two years) being directed to expanding the use of the My Health Record system through making it a national opt-out arrangement. This system allows a person to record and manage their medical history, including tests and medications. It could assist people with disability and complex medical conditions to better manage their health which is great for people with MS, avoiding the need to keep explaining and re-explaining their diagnosis to medical professionals.
MS Australia will make further comment as additional details emerge in the coming days.
And we will be working with the Parliamentary Friends of MS and the relevant Commonwealth Ministers to better understand the implications of Budget 2017/18.
ADDENDUM – ALP REPLY TO FEDERAL BUDGET 11/5/17 and MS AUSTRALIA OBSERVATIONS
· As reported in the press on May 12, Labor support the 0.5% Medicare levy increase (for NDIS funds) but only for those earning above $87,001 and says this will result in $4.45bn more revenue than the government’s plan
MSA supports whatever it takes for the full and on time rollout of the NDIS.
· Labor wants the government to immediately reverse the Medicare freeze, rather than a gradual unfreezing over the next three years (by 2020)
We support an immediate Medicare unfreeze, as the numerous GP visits and need to access MRIs is an integral, affordable component in early diagnosis of MS, thereby facilitating early treatment.
On the occasion of International Nurses Day (Friday May 12), MSA is heartened to hear that Labour will support the education of more nurses for the health sector.
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