COAG Agreement Just a First Step Towards a Healthy Australia

Today’s COAG agreement on health funding reforms must only be the first step in the development of a comprehensive national health strategy, BCA Chief Executive Katie Lahey says.

“The agreement provides a timely demonstration that improving health outcomes and the performance of the healthcare system are now clearly on the national agenda,” Ms Lahey said.

“COAG has shown it can still be the key forum for our governments to progress important national reforms,” Ms Lahey said. “This agreement focuses on fixing hospitals and funding issues, but our health system problems are much more complex than that.

“What we now need to see are the details of a broader reform agenda. That means reforms that support better governance, improved information so patients can make informed decisions about their own care, and a stronger focus on prevention and health promotion.

“We need a health plan that all Australians can engage with, not just a hospitals plan, if we are to reposition our health system for future challenges. This is the only way we can properly address the fragmentation and blame shifting evident in the current system,” Ms Lahey said.

“The health funding reforms agreed by COAG are a useful step towards shaping a better system to meet Australians’ healthcare needs into the future. But the politicisation of the debate has underlined the need for an independent planning commission to respond to these issues within a structured and evidence-based framework.

“More money for key parts of the system will have a limited impact unless we also ensure that services better meet current health requirements and are delivered in more efficient ways.

“COAG is a first step, but we now need the debate to turn toward the bigger picture of health reform. There is an urgent need for investment in building a national e-health infrastructure. Without better information sharing and access our ‘system’ remains a mirage.

“Without a clear idea of the totality of the health challenges we face we can’t have an informed public debate about the shape of the health system in this country. Nor can we understand how we can tackle the epidemic of chronic disease that threatens to undermine our health status as a nation.

“As the BCA has highlighted only about two per cent of health expenditure goes toward prevention and health promotion, with 82 per cent going to care and service provision including hospital, dental, and medical services, and medicines and capital.

“Health reform must be seen as a key area for microeconomic reform because of its growing impact on government budgets but also because health underpins Australia’s productive capacity and the wellbeing of our people.

“We must tackle all the issues within our health system if we are to meet the needs of our ageing population and lift the health of our population and workforce so they can lead fulfilling lives and find and stay in jobs in which they work effectively,” she said.