Health highlights from pre-budget announcements

May 11, 2021

Healthcare initiatives to support Victorians in regional, rural and remote areas and women across the state have received significant investment ahead of tonight’s Commonwealth Budget, including $65 million to boost bulk billing rebates and provide more affordable healthcare for patients in regional, rural and remote areas from 1 January 2022.

The investment includes a new, progressive incentive schedule that increases the value of the Rural Bulk Billing Incentive (RBBI) based on remoteness. This will enhance the financial viability of practices in rural and remote areas as well as reducing the gap paid by patients, which should support easing the current pressure on the acute health system in Victoria.

The 2021-22 Commonwealth Budget will also include $353.9 million over the next four years to support women’s health, including funding for cervical and breast cancer screening, endometriosis care and reproductive health.

Significant funding is also expected for aged care with a five-year plan to be presented in response to the Aged Care Royal Commission; the Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt described the aged-care package as the “largest in Australian history”.

In its pre-budget submission, the VHA called on the Commonwealth Government to develop and fund an implementation roadmap around the final recommendations and provide additional funding to support aged care providers to respond to their aligned requirements.

The VHA also called for greater investment in mental health, particularly strategic and responsive reform, as well as the provision of immediate funding to support the rapid implementation of the recommendations and actions in the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Mental Health.

Media outlets including The Australian are reporting that mental health will receive the largest single funding increase on record from the Commonwealth, with a focus on suicide prevention, as the Commonwealth Government is anticipated to announce its response to the Productivity Commission report. The VHA, in a joint submission with Mental Health Victoria, strongly supported the report and the implementation of most of its recommendations.

Alongside investment in aged care and mental health, a significant increase in funding of NDIS is expected.

The VHA hopes to see further recommendations from its budget submission delivered in the budget tonight, including:

  • increased spending on preventative health and funding for the implementation of the National Preventive Health Strategy
  • additional funding to support public health and community health services to support the national vaccine program
  • permanent extension of MBS telehealth items across all professions.

The VHA will be following the budget from 7.30pm tonight and providing members with comprehensive analysis over the coming days.

Follow the coverage on Twitter @VicHealthAssoc