Baillieu Has Support In Questioning So-Called “Health Reforms” – 2 December 2010

The premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu is right to question the workability of Gillard Government’s “health reforms”.

“There is a mystical belief in the minds of many health policy makers that the problems associated with rationing health care in a “free” public health system can be eliminated by changing bureaucracies and bank accounts,” Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate said in Sydney today.

Our doctors’ main concern is that there are public hospital beds and operating theatre time available for patients who need it. Just how this is delivered is largely irrelevant to most working doctors, who by and large have no time to read volumes of government reports and media releases extolling the virtues of “health reform”.

The Australian Doctors’ Fund has strongly advocated that public hospital financing should go direct to the hospital. This could be achieved with a voucher system or equivalent card technology and hence fund patient public hospital costs directly. Episodic payments on a casemix model were pioneered in Victoria by the late Dr John Paterson in an attempt to ensure that hospitals are financed on the basis of productivity and not block grants through the back door which are more easily diverted away from patient care (bureaucratic displacement).

Although many believe that a central Canberra health bureaucracy will be more efficient than a state one or combination of both, this is unlikely. The current Federal Government has built massive health bureaucracies which can easily devour states’ GST money in the name of “health spending”.

The Gillard “health reform agenda” is a continuation of the Rudd health agenda. The architect of Medicare, Professor John Deeble described the Rudd health reforms as largely spin. “The so-called $50 billion reform package is largely spin, derived by summing the higher federal government share of specific service payments over 15 years, and ignoring the fact that it is already paying that money through the distribution of the GST.1

Professor Henry Ergas, Economics professor at Harvard and Monash Universities said, “claims that the plan [Rudd health reforms] is a way of strengthening the state’s finances seems bizarre.” Current Victorian President of the AMA, Dr Harry Hemley explained that “just shifting percentages across the board isn’t necessarily going to stop the blame game.2”

“Premier Baillieu is doing his state a service in demanding value for the Victorian health dollar. In challenging the health reform cheer squad he is doing everyone a vital service3“, Mr Milgate said.

For more information contact: Mr Stephen Milgate

1. Viewpoint, Reforming Australian health care, John S Deeble, eMJA rapid online publication, 9/3/10
2. The Australian, Health FAQs for the confused, 5/3/10
ABC National radio interview, 8/4/10