Labor is concerned about the Abbott-Turnbull government’s intentions to privatise Medicare, leading to a two-tiered user pays health system. This is something Labor has been critical of publicly a number of times. Labor will continue to voice this opposition and stand up for Medicare.
Universal healthcare in Australia, through Medicare, has kept health costs down overall and ensured every Australian has access to the highest quality of care. If the Abbott-Turnbull government gets its way and privatises Medicare, costs will increase and getting access to high quality healthcare will be determined by an individual’s ability to pay.
Privatising Medicare would be another clear broken promise by the Abbott-Turnbull government which is why Labor will not support these attempts. I would encourage constituents to voice their opposition to these changes with the government, as well as do what they can to ensure they communicate to as many people as possible what the impact of these changes will be.
To date the tender to establish Primary Healthcare Networks (PHNs) has not yet been released. Once it has, Labor will have more to say about the role of PHNs, as well as comment on the appropriateness of the organisations in charge of them.
It is disappointing that, despite promising no Medicare Locals would close before the last election, every single one is to close. Medicare Locals were responsible for funding services at the community level and improving coordination and access to primary healthcare across Australia.
In Cunningham, for example, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local provides workforce support to local GPs; operates a number of programs and services for mental health, chronic disease management, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, child and adolescent health services including Headspace; and support to people in residential aged care.
Labor created the Medicare Local network to deliver community-specific services based on local need. Regional areas like the Illawarra have different health needs to those in major cities.
We have higher rates of chronic disease, obesity and mental health issues – that’s what the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local was set up to tackle. Now we’re lumped in with a diverse range of regions stretching from Southern Sydney, into rural Western NSW and all the way down to the Victorian border.
Health is not a one-size-fits-all problem. It requires local knowledge, community-based programs and dedicated providers. All of this is now at risk under the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s expansive PHNs.