Parties need stronger health access plans

(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A leading advocacy group says major parties could do more to improve access to health care, which voters see as a key election issue.

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says major parties need ambitious and forward-looking plans to enhance accessibility to Australian health care. 

According to CHF’s scorecard on major parties’ health policies, Labor, the coalition and the Greens have not presented an overarching vision for the future of the health system. 

The three parties are yet to put forward plans for the needed structural changes.

CHF CEO Leanne Wells says health consistently rates amongst the top issues in elections.

“Overall, the pledges in health have been piecemeal and do not lay down a long-term plan for how our health system needs to adapt to 21st century needs,” Ms Wells said. 

She said pledges to increase income test limits for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card will give more people access to prescription medicine but will not help those who most need it.

Ms Wells said all three parties made statements about critical workforce pressures in health care during COVID, but none had committed to a national health workforce agenda. 

“A burnt-out and maldistributed health workforce presents risks to patient safety and quality, as well as health system sustainability,” she said. 

Ms Wells said Labor’s 50 urgent care centres were a step in the right direction, but needed to integrate other primary care reform implementation and existing services. 

The CHF scorecard ranks parties against their election platform.

Labor shows strong support for primary care with some positive health measures, but scored less in consumer participation support, and addressing inequity and access.

While the coalition produced a primary health care reform plan they failed to fund it. They fell behind in support for preventive health, developing consumer participation and addressing inequity. 

The Greens failed to get across issues in primary health but have performed better in support of preventative health with their plan for staged inclusion of dental care under Medicare. 

Greens and Labor support for a National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was seen as a positive.


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