The bias in reporting on the health budget has been nothing short of shameless. It seems to be an annual sport of the media now. Exaggerate this or that condition of the budget. Worse, report it as though it reflected a personal failing of individuals.
Fair enough to say that this or that is a stupid decision, but to imply that this or that person is a pitiless wretch is ridiculous.
The overall effect of the scares and drama has been to frighten pensioners that they will have to pay a fortune to get medical attention. The media barely stops short of saying that the Treasurer will have blood on his hands.
Such has been the biassed hype that some clinics have reported a sharp decline in visits to clinics. The average man and woman, trying to get a picture of the health implications of the Budget, is under the impression that fees have risen right now.
The $7 co-payment as it is called, if it passes the Senate, doesn’t start for more than a year, and even then cuts out after 10 visits.
In other words for pensioners and kids, assuming a visit once a month, the average extra is $5.83 per month, or to put it another way, after 10 visits there is no co-payment. If the visit was once a week the average extra per health visit is well under $2.
The $7 applies to visits to emergency wards where the particular ’emergency’ could have been dealt with by a visit to the doctor. There is widespread evidence that the emergency wards, which should be for emergencies as the name implies, is being abused.
What is not mentioned in the reporting is that there has been a massive change in attitude that will have far-reaching consequences.
In a nutshell, the Commonwealth is bailing out of micromanaging health.
The States will now have full responsibility for the way that hospitals are run. If one state runs it efficiently and the other does not, well bad luck for the people in that state.
The socialist ideal of a central planned economy is being trimmed back in other words. The trend towards aggregating all power in the hands of a central government, in this case the Commonwealth, has halted in this single instance.
It seems to be unnoticed that the whole ethos of the health budget is to switch away from providing an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, to preventing people going over the cliff at all.
For example, there is to be spent $40 million a year for at least five years on research, not treatment, into dementia in Australia. Anyone who has not seen a loved parent or grandparent slipping is getting more and more fortunate these days.
Then there are the uniquely Australian venomous snakes and spiders, the uniquely Australian strains of Q fever and influenza. There is to be a shake-up here, and concentration will be on making sure that the vaccines and antivenins are there when they are needed.
There is to be more money provided for bowel cancer screening. This again, is an example of the change of emphasis in health. Get it before it gets you.
And on it goes.
Colossal sums are being diverted from health treatment to health research in order to make that treatment unnecessary. There has been a massive change in direction.
It might look simplistic but it is just an application of ordinary common sense, encapsulated in the proverb ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.
And all the newspapers can do is harp on a co-payment!