As the Federal Parliament grinds back into action for 2016 and the Government and Opposition gear up for the election (expected in September), here are some things we’d like to see this year.
A guarantee that pap smears won’t cost women more.
At the end of last year, Health Minister Sussan Ley confirmed that changes to bulk billing incentive payments could lead to people needing to pay more for pathology or imaging services.
The companies who do this testing confirmed the cuts would probably lead them to charge patients more — some saying a pap smear would cost $30.
Experts have confirmed that cutting the bulk billing incentive is effectively a cut to the rebate paid to companies for these procedures, and they say it would not be surprising for those companies to stop bulk billing to enable them to make up for the shortfall.
This is not good enough.
Whether the Government does away with bulk billing incentives or not, ensuring that essential pathology and imaging are available to patients bulk billed is vital.
The Medicare review that is already underway is a great opportunity for the medical profession and the Government to work out how to fix the system, and make sure that essential healthcare is still available and accessible to everyone.
Fixing problems might mean bulk billing incentives are scrapped, but that shouldn’t happen without figuring out a way to ensure that patients aren’t disadvantaged by the change.
Because providing universal healthcare is the cornerstone of the Medicare system.
Don’t shortchange mums on maternity leave.
While the Government has walked back plans to stop “double dipping” on paid parental leave that would have seen new mums ineligible for the 18 weeks of Government funded leave if their employer provided leave, the changes haven’t totally been abandoned.
The Government is seeking support in the Senate for changes that would essentially turn the Government scheme into a “top up”. So if your employer gave you, say, five weeks of leave, then the Government would give you a further 13.
That’s different than now, where you can add the 18 weeks of Government-funded leave (paid at the minimum wage) on top of whatever your employer gives you.
The current system encourages workplaces to offer more leave, to remain competitive with each other and it enables companies to effectively give women far more than 18 weeks of paid leave.
The proposed new system essentially caps paid leave at 18 weeks for women whose employer schemes are less generous than that.
The current system isn’t perfect. And it certainly isn’t the “rolled-gold” scheme this Government originally promised, but we don’t want to see it hollowed out any further.
Get children out of detention.
This one is long overdue.
While the number of children in immigration detention has fallen significantly since the Coalition took office in 2013, the amount of time children have spent there has increased.