On Tuesday, May 9, Treasurer Jim Chalmers presented Labor’s second budget and while much of the attention was primarily on the relief measures for cost of living and the government’s first surplus in 15 years, there were also various initiatives targeted towards improving the well-being and catering to the specific requirements of older Australians.
One area in particular that older adults stand to benefit from is the delivery of critical funding to strengthen Medicare.
In response to the difficulty that many Australians face in accessing “affordable” and “reliable healthcare”, Medicare has received a “$3.5 billion boost” to ensure greater access to GPs for pensioners and concession card holders.
The funding increase will help GPs provide free consultations to an estimated 11.6 million eligible Australians
“All of this will help take pressure off our public hospitals and emergency departments, still feeling the strain of a once‑in‑a‑century pandemic,” Chalmers said.
“And it will ensure that for millions of people, the quality of your healthcare is guaranteed not by your credit card – but by your Medicare card.”
Tonight we deliver a Budget that sets stronger foundations for a better future. #auspol #Budget2023 pic.twitter.com/aO4yMC5K3k
— Jim Chalmers MP (@JEChalmers) May 9, 2023
Seniors will no doubt benefit from the move which is expected to provide increased access to healthcare services while reducing the financial burden of healthcare costs.
Council on the Ageing Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow certainly welcomed the move, claiming that older Australians had relayed to them that they had forgone doctor’s appointments due to the cost.
“Reforming Medicare to ensure that every Australian, no matter their age or where they live, can get access to the support they need is an important step,” Sparrow said.
“It’s particularly pleasing to see Government act to improve access to bulk billing by tripling the incentive payment to GPs.
“Older people have told us that they can’t afford to see their doctor because bulk billing is now only available through limited services, so this commitment is timely and very welcome.”
The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) President Dr Nicole Higgins commended the government “for committing to this massive investment in general practice care”.
“Every patient deserves access to high-quality, affordable and accessible general practice care, irrespective of their postcode or income,” Higgins said.
“We know the problems impacting our health system can’t all be fixed in one go, but tonight’s Budget includes a groundbreaking investment in the health of all Australians by strengthening general practice care. The Government has shown real commitment to strengthening Medicare and rebuilding general practice care for all patients.”
We’ve been heard!
$5.7 billion for general practice.
This year’s Federal Budget is a game changer for general practice care. #Budget2023 pic.twitter.com/cWIpd5cHB5
— RACGP (@RACGP) May 9, 2023
While delivering his Budget speech, Chalmers said this year’s Budget was about “seeing our people through the hard times – and setting our country up for a better future.”
“In all our decisions, we seek to strike a considered, methodical balance,” he said.
“Between spending restraint to keep the pressure off inflation, while doing what we can to help people struggling to make ends meet.
“Making sure vital services like Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme are secure, reliable and sustainable.
“And dealing with immediate, near‑term challenges – while investing in our long‑term national success.”