Strengthening Medicare gets another $1.2bn

3 minute read

Internationally trained doctors, the NDIS and hospitals were the big winners out of today’s national cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a further $1.2 billion contribution to the Strengthening Medicare fund, but primary care won’t be the main recipient.  

Instead, the money will go toward taking the pressure off hospitals, including boosting funding for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics and supporting older Australians through avoided hospital admission and earlier discharge. 

“Australians want an approach to healthcare that recognises that primary care and hospital care are linked and that we need to strengthen primary care in order to take pressure off hospitals,” Mr Albanese said.  

Another portion of the funding will go toward implementing health-related recommendations from the Kruk Review, which looked at the regulatory hurdles facing internationally trained doctors in Australia.  

While the review’s final report was due to be handed to parliament around the middle of this year, it has not been released publicly at time of writing.  

What is public, though, is the interim report released back in April

Some of the key reforms included in that document were to remove duplication and align evidence requirements so applicants only had to share information with the various regulatory bodies one time, as well as better recognition of overseas health practitioner experience and skills and to provide greater flexibility for applicants to demonstrate their English language competency.  

“[These reforms] are focused on workforce issues and the workforce we need to deliver the healthcare that Australians deserve,” Mr Albanese said. 

National Cabinet also endorsed the Commonwealth increasing its National Health Reform Agreement contributions to 45% by 2035, a move that the Prime Minister said will ensure “certainty” for state and territory governments.  

The current 6.5% funding cap will be replaced by a more “generous approach”, which includes a cumulative cap between 2025 and 2030 and a first-year “catch up” growth premium, Mr Albanese said. 

 The other big-ticket item to come out of National Cabinet today was on the NDIS, with all governments agreeing to work together to implements legislative and other changes to the scheme to improve the experience of its participants.  

State and territory contribution escalation rates will increase from 4% to be aligned with the actual growth of the NDIS, but will be capped at 8%.  

The Commonwealth will continue to pay the remainder of the scheme’s costs growth from July 2028.  

It’s a move intended to pre-empt the release of Professor Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul’s joint independent review into the disability scheme, which was presented to relevant ministers in early November.  

That report will be released tomorrow.  

“As an initial response to the review, Cabinet agreed to work together to implement legislative and other changes to the NDIS to improve the experience of participants and restore the original intent of the scheme to support people with permanent and significant disability with a broader ecosystem of support,” Mr Albanese said.  

There were high hopes that today’s National Cabinet would result in the states agreeing to adopt Queensland’s payroll tax model for medical practices, but the topic went unmentioned by Mr Albanese.  

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