Federal Budget 2023-24: what it means for the health, aged care and disability sectors
By Alison Choy Flannigan, Partner, Co-Lead Health & Community
The Federal Government’s 2023-24 Budget for health, aged care and disability is welcomed due to its funding of the review and improvements to:
- Medicare (including providing incentives for bulk billing to eligible persons);
- strengthening the health and aged care workforce;
- increasing the role of qualified nurse practitioners;
- assisting with the funding of wage rises for the aged care sector and scholarships for the education of the aged care workforce;
- improving health systems through the use of technology, including the MyHealth Record, and introducing the MyMedicare system to strengthen the relationship between doctors and their patients and produce better continuity of care. In time, MyMedicare will also be extended to nurse practitioners and other primary care providers. MyMedicare will make it easier for GPs to provide telehealth consultations ($5.9 million); and
- preventative measures including dealing with vaping and e-cigarettes.
The Government is tripling the incentive paid to GPs to bulk bill consultations for families with children under 16 years, pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders, at a cost of $3.5 billion. The tripling of the bulk billing incentive applies to:
- all face‑to‑face and telehealth general practices services between six and 20 minutes long;
- all other face‑to‑face general practice consultations; and
- longer telehealth and general practice consultations where a patient is registered with their regular practice through MyMedicare.
From 1 November, a GP who bulk bills an eligible patient for a standard consultation in a metropolitan area will receive a bulk billing incentive benefit of $20.65 instead of $6.85. In remote areas, the bulk billing incentive for a standard consultation will increase from $13.15 to $39.65.
The Government is providing:
- $445.1 million over five years to enable GPs to have nurses and allied health professionals working with them in cooperation for better care;
- $143.9 million over two years to encourage GPs to stay open for longer hours;
- $98.9 million over four years to connect frequent hospital users to general practices to receive comprehensive, multidisciplinary care in the community;
- $79.4 million over four years to support Primary Health Networks to commission allied health services to improve access to multidisciplinary care for people with chronic conditions in underserviced communities;
- $586.9 million in continuing and expanding mental health and suicide prevention supports;
- $29.8 million as an initial investment to reduce fraud – including a taskforce within the Department of Health and Aged Care to oversee longer-term improvements to Medicare integrity;
- $358.5 million in additional funding to support the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics (UCCs) program, including eight new Medicare UCCs;
- $98.2 million for new Medicare rebates for consultations of 60 minutes or longer, which will give doctors the support they need to provide high-quality care to people with chronic conditions and complex needs; and
- the Medicare rebate for a standard consultation with nurse practitioners will increase.
The Government is investing $824.4 million in digital health, including to modernise the My Health Record system and fund other digital health initiatives. This will provide health professionals the digital and data tools needed to provide improved and more co‑ordinated care.
The Government is also introducing the MyMedicare system to strengthen the relationship between doctors and their patients and produce better continuity of care. In time, MyMedicare will also be extended to nurse practitioners and other primary care providers. MyMedicare will make it easier for GPs to provide telehealth consultations ($5.9 million).
Supporting the medical and health workforce
With respect to supporting the medical and health workforce, the Budget also includes the following:
- $50.2 million over four years to establish the Primary Care and Midwifery Scholarships program, supporting registered nurses and midwives in post‑graduate study to improve their skills.
- $31.6 million over two years for improved training arrangements for international medical students working in rural and remote locations.
Making common medicines cheaper
Australians will be able to buy two months’ worth of medicine for the price of a single (one month) prescription for more than 300 common PBS medicines. This will halve patients’ visits to the GP and pharmacist – saving patients an estimated $1.6 billion and freeing up millions of GP appointments.
$2.2 billion has been allocated for new and amended Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings – medicines to treat COVID-19 and cystic fibrosis are being expanded or added to the PBS.
The budget has allocated:
- $11.3 billion to fund the Fair Work Commission’s interim decision for a 15% pay increase for aged care workers for affected aged care workers in three awards (Aged Care Award, Nurses Award and Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award).
- $59.5 million to fund advancements to the National Worker Registration Scheme, engaging with the aged care, health and training sectors.
- $72.3 million to fund a new regulatory model and prudential framework, to be reflected in a new Aged Care Act, changing in how providers are regulated. The new model will be complemented by actions to:
- strengthen food and nutrition reporting, direct expert dietary advice to providers and embed improved dining experiences for aged care residents ($12.9 million);
- Monthly Care Statements with information on care provided and occurrences of significant change or events for residents ($1.3 million);
- Enhance Star Ratings for better data quality and analysis ($126.7 million); and
- expand the existing Quality Indicator program to in-home care services ($11.9 million).
- $112 million to aged care residents to have better access to high quality, continuous primary care through reforms to strengthen Medicare, with new incentives for GPs to provide care to residents through MyMedicare.
- $52.1 million to uplift to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program.
- $7.6 million inthe Budget also provides support to build the capacity of Aboriginal Controlled Organisations so that First Nations elders will continue to receive the care they need on Country.
This Budget also provides 9,500 additional Home Care Packages, to be released in 2023-24, and establishes new aged care assessment arrangements from July 2024.
A new Aged Care Taskforce will be established to review aged care funding arrangements and develop options to make the system fair and equitable for all Australians. The Taskforce will also inform the final design of the Support at Home program, which will be postponed until 1 July 2025, in response to feedback and to allow time to further refine the design.
The Budget has also committed:
- $41 million over three years to increase the capacity of the supported employment sector to support people with disability with high support needs;
- $31.4 million committed to deliver the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) which will streamline and improve disability data collection;
- $11.7 million over four years to establish a disability employment advocacy and information program for supported employees, and their families and carers;
- $3.7 million investment in the research and consultation phase of the National Autism Strategy to support co-design of the Strategy to improve life outcomes for autistic people;
- $22.1 million over four years to deliver two new evidence-based pre-emptive early intervention pilots for infants with early signs of autism. The early years are a window of opportunity to positively influence children’s development. The pilots align with the Early Years Strategy and the National Autism Strategy both currently under consultation for development;
- $1.1 million to consultation and design of the Disability Employment Centre of Excellence which will better support JobSeekers with disability, including supported employees, employers and employment service providers; and
- additional funding of $3.2 million to extend the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and the Complaints Resolution and Referral Service, to ensure a continued service for users of disability services including Australian Disability Enterprises, for two years.
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