Hotly anticipated as “one of the toughest budgets in recent years”, last night’s 2014 Federal budget announcement has captured headlines nation-wide.
So who are the “winners and losers” from this year’s budget? For many groups, the budget results appear clear cut (although as history reminds us, there’s no such thing as clear cut), with “losers” including university students who may be looking down the barrel of fee deregulation, and having to pay up-front fees for university education; the axing of $500 million from Indigenous programs; and massive cuts to funding for the ABC and SBS.
“Winners” identified in the budget announcement include construction firms and our defence industry, which is set to experience growth of $11 billion and 2 per cent consecutively in the coming years.
But the question on our lips at VIVA! is what the budget means for the health and wellness arena? The answer to this question is not clear-cut.
The health and wellness industry may be both a “winner” and a “loser,” with massive funding and cuts announced.
Let’s start with the “losers” – PBS funding and Medicare cuts. Under the new budget, all GP visits, blood tests and X-rays will now cost $7, while general patients will also have to fork out an extra $5 for prescription medications, while concessional patients will have to pay $0.80 more.
Concession card holders and those aged under 16 years will be charged the $7 fee for their first 10 GP visits, or out-of-hospital diagnostic services each year, while the medicine price hikes will kick-start January 2015.
On top of this, hospital’s will be hit hard, with funding to be carved back from 2017, projected to save the government $50 billion over the course of eight years.
Medical research is the big “winner” of this year’s budget, with the government’s plans to create a Medical Research Future Fund, projected to reach $20 billion by 2019-20 generated by savings in healthcare revenue, including the $7 GP co-payment.
In his budget speech, Treasurer, the Hon Joe Hockey MP explained how the “modest” contribution from patients for GP services, as well as the “modest” changes to the PBS will help pay for the Medical Research Future Fund.
“Tonight, I announce the Government’s commitment to build with your contributions, a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.
This fund will, within six years, be the biggest medical research endowment fund in the world,” Mr Hockey said.
“Its funding of research will be in addition to existing levels of funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council.
“The Medical Research Future Fund will receive all the savings from the introduction of a $7 Medicare co-contribution, modest changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and other responsible changes in this Health Budget, until the Fund reaches $20 billion,” said Mr Hockey.
“Health services have never been free to taxpayers so patients are being asked to make a modest contribution towards their cost.”
Continue to watch this space for how the health and wellness industry responds.