How the Federal Budget 2023 impacts the medical sector
11 May 2023
On Tuesday night we were presented with the first full budget from the Albanese Labor government, with cheaper GP appointments and cheaper medicines grabbing the headlines. Below we take a deeper dive into how the Federal Budget 2023-24 impacts the medical sector.
One of the changes grabbing the lion’s share of the headlines is the increase in the bulk-billing incentive. The change will start 1 November 2023 and will mean 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. This only applies to children under 16 (estimated to be 5.1 million people) and pension and concession card holders (estimated to be 7.9 million people).
While this is good news for practices already bulk-billing these patients, we don’t believe this alone will revitalise bulk-billing rates, however it is still a positive move. Furthermore, as there is no significant movement in the Medicare rebate amounts, many patients will see no impact from this measure.
The government also plans to introduce an ability for patients to purchase two months' worth of medicine on a single prescription for 300 common medicines. This is aimed at halving patients’ visits to the GP and pharmacy, plus is estimated to save patients up to $180 per year for each eligible medicine they take. Commonwealth concession card holders will save up to $43.80 a year per medicine.
This is likely to be of some benefit to patients who regularly use the 300 common medicine the scheme is designed for. The halving of GP visits however is very much contingent on each patients’ circumstances and is likely not to be an automatic halving of GP visits for patients under the scheme.
Furthermore, it is likely to result in a significant reduction in revenue for pharmacies, especially for those is regional areas, which tend to be more focused on dispensing than some of the larger city-based pharmacies.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
Medicines, including those used to treat COVID-19 and cystic fibrosis, are being expanded or added to the PBS, saving patients thousands of dollars a year ($2.2b). This is very positive news for those that need the medicines.
Making it easier to get the healthcare you need
The budget included several measures directed at making access to healthcare easier:
Extension of the PHN after hours program for another two years
8 new Medicare Urgent Care Clinics to be supported
Increase in Medicare rebate for 60 minutes or longer consults
New and amended MBS items to help protect against heart disease
Continuing to expand mental health support for a range of patients
Tackling smoking and vaping
The budget also includes measures designed to reduce smoking and vaping rates, and improve cancer outcomes:
Increasing the tobacco tax by 5%
Proposed stronger regulation and enforcement on e-cigarettes
New quit campaign, including discouraging vaping
New lung cancer screening program
Growing the health workforce
Another positive outcome is the strong focus in the budget on growing the nursing workforce, especially in regional areas. The government is proposing an additional 6,000 clinical placements for nurses in primary care and aged care, an additional 1,850 post graduate scholarships and an incentive to get 500 nurses back in the workforce.
Medicare rebates will be increased by 30% for care provided by nurse practitioners, which could benefit GP practices and patient care.
Plus, pharmacists will be able to administer National Immunisation Program vaccines at no costs to patients.
Aged care workers will receive their largest ever pay rise of 15%. The wage rise will deliver cost-of living relief for over 250,000 aged care workers. It is the largest ever pay increase in the history of the Fair Work Act.
An additional 9,500 home care packages have also been made available, to meet the growing preference for older people to continue to live independently in their own home.
There are new incentives for GPs to allow aged care residents to access primary care.
The introduction of a new regulatory framework and prudential model to enable changes to how providers are regulated.
New measures for preventative health include:
Disease control: The budget includes the first steps towards establishing a world-class Centre for Disease Control, to better prepare Australia for future pandemics.
Dental: Additional 30,000 adults will be eligible to review dental treatment as public patients.
Check out the full coverage from the Federal Budget 2023 here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the thought or position of Findex Group Limited.