Health care in the election: Which party is offering what

From cheaper dental care to shorter hospital waits, the two major parties are doing their best to woo voters ahead of the election. Source: Getty

The federal election is just weeks away and while it’s hard to escape the political scandals and campaigns making headlines around the country, both major parties are attempting to woo voters with a series of health promises ahead of May 18.

From cheaper dental care to shorter hospital waits, there’s no shortage of ways over-60s could benefit under plans from each party, but it can be hard to keep up with what Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are promising voters. Starts at 60 looks at some of the major health promises each party is offering and how each would benefit older Australians.

Labor Party

Specialist care for intellectual disability: Promising a $9.5 million investment to improve health of 400,000 people with intellectual disability by tailoring health care to their needs. An additional $6.3 million will fund a three-year pilot of 10 trainers across four primary health networks and $3.2 million will fund a toolkit on intellectual disability health care for medical and nursing schools.

Dental plan: Vowing to invest $2.4 billion in a Pensioner Dental Plan, Labor plans to give up to three million older Australians access to free dental care. People with Age Pension and Commonwealth Seniors Health Cards will receive $1,000 worth of free essential dental care including examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fluoride treatment, fissure sealants, fillings, root canals, extractions, periodontal treatment and dentures every two years under Medicare.

Free blood tests: Shorten says bulk billing for blood tests is “at breaking point” and has promised to invest $200 million to ensure vital pathology tests remain free for older Australians and cancer patients.

Faster surgery: Those on hospital waiting lists are promised quicker surgery with a promised $250 million to blitz elective surgery waiting times in public hospitals. This investment could fund more than 62,000 cataract procedures, 9,800 knee replacements or 9,400 hip replacements.

Cancer plan: Pledging $2.3 billion as part of a proposed Medicare Cancer Plan, Labor promises to help cancer patients in need by investing $600 million towards eliminating out-of-pocket expenses, $433 million to fund three million free consultations, $125 million for cancer research, a $10 million boost for bowel cancer screening, increased access to life-changing drugs and therapies, $500 million to slash public hospital waiting times and millions of free scans, consultations and cheaper medicines.

Affordable medicines guarantee: Labor promises Australians will have access to affordable medicines by listing every drug recommended by the independent experts on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Medicines will be available for $40.30 or $6.50 for concession patients – regardless of the normal cost of the medication.

Better hospitals: An investment of $1 billion would see vital upgrades to Australia’s public hospitals by building new wards with more beds, upgrading emergency departments and theatres and additional palliative care and mental health facilities.

Liberal National Party

Disability support: The Liberals promise $45 million to develop a national disability information gateway for people with a disability and their families, $2 million to support people with autism to find and keep a job and will introduce a 7 per cent employment target for people with disability across the Australian Public Service (APS) by 2025.

Dental Health: An investment of $100 million is planned to provide an extra 180,000 services at little or no cost to low-income households and pensioners.

Cheaper medication: The party says $308 million would be used to cut the cost of life-changing prescription medicines, saving patients up to $80 per year and giving 1.4 million Australians free and quicker access to medication. A previous investment of $10.6 billion saw costs of more than 2,000 medications slashed to $40.30 (and $6.50 for concessions) since 2013. The Liberals say they will continue to approve every medication recommended for the PBS.

Guaranteed Medicare: The Liberals will increase Medicare spending by $6 billion to $30.7 billion in 2022-23 as part of the Medicare Guarantee Fund – which guarantees the ongoing funding of the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the PBS. The party says 86 per cent of Aussies who visit the doctor have no out-of-pocket costs thanks to GP bulk billing.

Better care: A $1.6 billion investment package would ensure doctors and specialists delivered better patient care, including a $448.5 million funding and service model to support GPs in providing enhanced care to patients and a $201.5 million boost for doctors to improve quality of care.

Increased access to life-saving tests: Access to MRI scans to fight cancer and other serious conditions will be expanded with a $375 million investment to more than 50 Medicare-eligible MRI licences across the country if Morrison is re-elected. A further $32.6 million worth of MRI and PET scans will be offered for breast cancer patients and a $198.6 million investment in diagnostic imaging will mean visits to radiologists, obstetricians and cardiologists are cheaper.

Better hospitals: The Liberals vow to continue increasing funding for every hospital across Australia in addition to their $21 billion hospital funding in 2018-19. Patients will also have access to improved health and hospital services as part of the $1.3 billion Commonwealth Health and Hospitals Program (CHHP).

Cancer care: In addition to free breast MRI and PET scans, the Liberal party promises to invest more than $180 million per year in ground-breaking cancer research funding, $614 million over 10 years for rare cancer and rare diseases clinical trials, $10 million for a new bowel cancer awareness campaign and $20 million in anti-smoking campaigns.

Who will you vote for at the next election? Do health services offered by the major parties influence how you vote?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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