Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Medicare running out of money

The story from today's paper:
THE Australian system of free universal healthcare is set to disappear in as little as five years, prompting a radical plan for a new federal-state partnership to take control of hospitals and patient care.

It comes amid a push by the Australian Medical Association for hospital specialists to treat patients only four days a week, potentially placing further pressure on a system already hamstrung by work restrictions among emergency physicians.

In a startling warning, NSW Health director-general Debora Piccone has told The Daily Telegraph that Australia is hurtling towards a US-style user-pays system due to an ageing population and out of control costs.

"We are really on the edge of losing the universal healthcare system that this country has," she said.

"I would have (previously) said we'd had 10 years to run. It's now looking like we've got five years to run because the cost escalations are so significant and we haven't prepared ourselves."...

And the proposed solution? Centralised control to "reduce cost":

Professor Piccone and Health Minister John Della Bosca are now working on a plan to pool all state and federal health funding and have it redistributed by a joint partnership between the two governments.

The $13.2 billion state hospital budget - set to grow into almost $50 billion by 2025 - would be integrated with Commonwealth funding towards Medicare, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and aged care and jointly administered so as to slash red tape and eliminate overlap.
The NSW Labor government centralized management and amalgamated the old Area Health Services into a smaller number of much larger ones. The result more bureaucracy and poorer services. Now they want to do that on a national scale.

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