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Democrats back independent arbiter to take politics out of health funding.

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Senator Lyn Allison Australian Democrats Health and Ageing Spokesperson 22 February 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/095

Democrats back independent arbiter to take politics out of health funding The Australian Democrats have today provided in-principle support for an independent arbiter of health funding to eliminate the regular slanging matches between State and Federal Health Ministers over Australian Health Care Agreements. “If the Commonwealth Government and States cannot make any progress on an issue which impacts on everyone in the community, then let’s take the politics out of the equation,” said Senator Lyn Allison, the Australian Democrats health spokesperson. Labor has previously proposed an independent statutory authority to determine health funding. Senator Allison said, “The States are guilty of wasting time by focussing on Federal issues such as the private health insurance rebate and the funding of bulk-billing in the context of the Australian Health Care Agreements. “The States need to lift their game in the areas that they are responsible for such as the delivery of mental health services and public hospital services. “If the States publicly reported their health expenditure and activity in a transparent way, then we would be half way to having a serious debate” Senator Allison said. The latest in the Health Expenditure series (Number 14), produced by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, shows that the States actually decreased their recurrent funding to public hospitals in real terms in both 1998-99 and 1999-00, while the Commonwealth increased its funding by 10.5 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. In 2000-01 the Commonwealth increased its expenditure by 3.3 per cent, while the States increased theirs by only 1.4 per cent. “The States are playing into the Federal Government’s hands by making their health funding package so political instead of concentrating on real reform in terms of equity to access to services including dental, maternal, physiotherapy and GPs. “Many people are missing out on basic health services, either due to geography or income, and this is fundamentally what a Federal Government should fix. The Government knows this, but it is ‘policy-frozen’,” Senator Allison concluded. Contact: John Derry 0408 056 167