Prime time for a pre-election meeting

Australian Medical Association/AusMed

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison ahead of the Federal Budget and the upcoming federal election.

The meeting gave Dr Bartone the opportunity to stress to the Prime Minister the importance of health policy and making sure the sector is properly funded and resourced.

The AMA President later described the meeting as productive and “very successful” and said the PM was genuinely attentive.

“We discussed the importance of a vision for health, including general practice investment, aged care funding, affordable and transparent private health insurance, public hospitals, and mental health funding and access,” Dr Bartone said.

Mr Morrison was one of the first to be presented with a limited-edition AMA Federal Election 2019 cap, which had arrived from the manufacturers just before the meeting.

The AMA cap is set to make a number of cameos on various heads throughout the election campaign.

The Budget was brought forward a month to April, to allow for what is anticipated to be an election in May. The Budget is widely expected to be a platform from which the Government hopes to launch its bid for re-election.

But the AMA has put all political parties on notice, saying it is prepared to critique all health-related policy without fear or favour.

Dr Bartone has met with leaders from both sides of politics, as well MPs responsible for health portfolios.

He said AMA relationships with the Coalition as well as with Labor were built on trust and that both sides respected the Association.

Dr Bartone recently met with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who requested a further meeting with the AMA President.

“We had a half-hour meeting (in Canberra) and he (Mr Shorten) wanted to meet me again in Melbourne. We had a subsequent 50-minute meeting there and he wanted to know what we wanted and how we see things need to be addressed,” Dr Bartone said.

Medicare freeze

Labor has since promised to end the Medicare rebate indexation freeze within 50 days of forming government, if it wins the election.

The move would bring forward the lifting of the freeze by a year, would apply to about 100 GP items including for mental health and family counselling, and will cost about $213 million.

Dr Bartone said the promise was a good first move, indicating the major parties have recognised that supporting general practice is good health policy.

“General practice is the most cost-effective sector of the health system. It keeps patients away from more expensive hospital care,” Dr Bartone said.

“GPs are the most trusted and respected providers of health care. They help people make better lifestyle decisions to get healthy and stay healthy.

“But the Medicare freeze and years of policy and funding neglect have placed enormous pressure on GPs and general practices.”

Dr Bartone said it is time for major investment to build the capacity of general practice to meet the primary care needs of a growing and ageing population.

“The AMA has gone to the major parties with a detailed plan to secure a strong future for general practice in Australia,” he said.

“All of our political leaders are listening, and they acknowledge the vital role of GPs and general practice in keeping people well and out of hospital.”

The AMA will give its assessment of the Federal Budget immediately upon it being delivered and will note the commitment or otherwise to health funding.

Coverage of the Budget’s health initiatives will be published in Australian Medicine.

Once the election is called, the AMA will release its own federal election document to highlight what it expects in relation to health policy from the campaign.

The AMA leadership will comment on election issues throughout the campaign.

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