Articles on Health policy

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Replacing registered and enrolled nurses with lower-skilled workers leads to poorer patient outcomes. DIBP images

Replacing registered nurses isn’t the answer to rising health costs

A shortage of qualified nursing staff and rising health costs have led to an increase in the employment of unregulated nursing workers. In 2012, the average weekly salary for full-time nursing professionals…
Progress on GP super clinics is mixed, but it would be a mistake to condemn the program without a closer evaluation. Shutterstock

GP clinics aren’t so super but it’s too early to pull the plug

The former Labor government’s GP Super Clinics Program has come in for a bashing. The Coalition has derided it as “a total waste of money” and News Corp has dubbed it a “dangerous health care experiment…
It passes the ‘milk bar test’ but once you look behind it, big risks emerge. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Save now, spend later: why co-payments for GP visits are a bad idea

Like a movie zombie, a policy idea that should have died has arisen from the dead and is likely to feature as a cost-savings measure in next month’s budget. The idea is simple: most GP patients should…
With the right training and supervision, assistants could safely take on 15% of nurses’ workloads. John Keith/Shutterstock

Hospital workforce reform: better jobs and more care

Employees are the public hospital system’s most valuable resource, and its biggest cost. Wages account for nearly 70% of recurrent hospital spending. To keep hospital care affordable in a time of rising…
There is no publicly available, solid evidence to show that such outsourcing generates savings for governments. But it could. Alexander Tihonov/Shutterstock

Does contracting public care to private hospitals save money?

In the lead-up to the budget on May 13, the Tony Abbott government is looking for ways to make the health dollar go further. In 2011-12 the federal government spent A$14.4 billion on public and private…
Investors who remember former floats of government entities might be excited by the prospect of a Medibank Private IPO. Dean Lewins/AAP

Medibank Private IPO: no sure thing for investors

The proposed sale of Medibank Private is not popular, but as I wrote last year, and as Finance Minister Mathias Cormann points out, it’s hard to find public policy grounds to justify ongoing public ownership…
The United States, which relies heavily on private health insurance, spends 18% of its GDP on health care, well above the OECD average of 9%. Shutterstock

Private insurance reliance means countries pay more for health care

Ahead of the May budget, health minister Peter Dutton has said he wants to start “a national conversation about modernising and strengthening Medicare”. A national conversation would be welcome, but is…
‘Going private’ may speed up your time to treatment, but Medicare shouldn’t pick up the tab. Shutterstock

Want Medicare savings? Stop paying for private hospitals

The polls this week suggest half of Australians think the Abbott government should reduce the cost of Medicare. My solution? Claw back some of the A$9 billion the government pays to private hospitals…
Finding ways to deliver high-quality care at an affordable cost to the nation is just as important as finding cures for diseases. DWaschnig/Flickr

Digital tools for a better, more sustainable health system

It seems that almost every politician, health economist, policy expert and health-care worker has a different take on the state of the nation’s health system and ways to make it more sustainable. But notably…
The cost of operations varies from hospital to hospital but a higher price doesn’t equal better care. TheTun/Shutterstock

Public hospital efficiency gains could save $1 billion a year

Public hospital spending has been the single fastest-growing area of government spending over the past decade. As governments, policymakers and economists put health spending under the microscope, it’s…
Rather than looking back, we need to decide on the future foundations of Australia’s health system. Image from shutterstock.com

On being treated well: reforming Medicare after 30 years

Treasurer Joe Hockey and health minister Peter Dutton have been in overdrive this past week lowering expectations for the May budget and reminding Australians that its 30-year-old Medicare system is “unsustainable…
Government spending is already targeted toward poorer households. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Making the rich pay more isn’t the answer to a better Medicare

Should the rich pay more for their health care? This question has raised its ugly head again after health minister Peter Dutton announced the Coalition government was considering more user-pays options…
Four of the five members of the Commission of Audit during a Senate hearing at Parliament House in January. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Commission of Audit should know costs but appreciate value

The Senate Select Committee into the Commission of Audit is holding its third Hearing in Canberra today. Witnesses include the Consumers Health Forum and Australian Health and Hospitals Association, so…
Big announcements aren’t the answer – the health system needs a long-term plan. AAP Image/Quentin Jones

Mr Abbott, make 2014 a year of health reform, not regression

This year is crunch time for Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s health policies. The financing and policy changes from the Rudd-Gillard government are finally taking effect and the National Commission of Audit…
Medicare guarantees free public hospital care and funds a range of primary care and other health services. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is Medicare and how does it work?

Medicare is Australia’s universal health scheme. It is a Commonwealth government program that guarantees all citizens (and some overseas visitors) access to a wide range of health services at little or…
Some Australians are struggling to get timely access to affordable health care. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Medicare turns 30 and begins to show signs of ageing

Tomorrow marks an important Australian milestone: 30 years of Medicare and the guarantee of universal access to health care. Before Medicare, it was not that uncommon for people to avoid using health-care…
Some insurers are testing opportunities to expand their involvement in primary care. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Balancing public and private as health insurers move into primary care

Prompted by the government’s Commission of Audit, health policy analysts have spent the first weeks of the year vigorously debating ways to rein in Australia’s rising health budget and to make the system…
Medicare Locals plan for better, tailored health services by drawing on local knowledge. Image from shutterstock.com

Let Medicare Locals find their feet and improve primary care

Primary health care in Australia is a messy beast, with many heads and all sorts of body parts. But it’s centrally important because it plays a major role in achieving public health outcomes, such as better…
An identical patient with an identical presenting symptom of ‘tension headache’ might lead to a thousand different discussions. DIBP images

GP consultations are often more complicated than you think

When we think of what defines a medical consultation, we quite reasonably think of the “presenting complaint”: the medical problem which the patient brings to the doctor. In movies, literature, common…

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