Key announcements for the health portfolio in the Federal Budget
The Coalition has handed down its pre-election Budget, with some headline grabbing spending unveiled to address the cost of living, indicating the deficit is not a short-term priority for the government. The health budget is cautious and unsurprising, containing some winners and losers.
It ensures an investment of $537 billion over four years, up $34 billion on last year’s Budget, allaying any fears of austerity which many in industry expect to come after eye-watering pandemic spending in the health portfolio.
Key spending areas include COVID-19 winter preparedness, mental health, new PBS and MBS items, women’s and preventative health.
However, those with high expectations were probably left disappointed. Measures hidden in the Budget could be announced in the next few weeks or they will be revealed in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report, released within ten days of the issue of writs for an election. This could throw up some surprises or confirm frustrations felt by many within industry over omissions for some disease states.
We’ve provided a brief summary of some announcements and will provide further analysis in the coming weeks.
Medicines: cost and access
The Health Minister unveiled $2.4 billion for new and amended listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) including treatments for breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, severe eczema, asthma, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and heart failure.
It’s worth noting that this amounts to around $1 billion in net spending.
New listings from April 2022 include:
- Trikafta®, the combination product of elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, helping an average 1,900 Australians reduce their out-of-pocket costs by around $250,000 a year.
New listings from May 2022 include:
- Zolgensma® (onasemnogene abeparvovec) for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy in children less than nine-months old with type 1 SMA or pre-symptomatic patients with 1-2 copies of the SMN2 gene, which will save families of an average of 20 patients each year more than $2.5 million per treatment.
- Trodelvy® (sacituzumab govitecan) for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer, which will save an average of 580 patients each year $80,000 per course of treatment.
- Ofev® (nintedanib) for use in the treatment of progressive fibrosing interstitial lung disease, which will save more than 1,400 Australians around $40,000 a year.
Medicines Australia welcomed the new listings, as well as the continued COVID-19 spending on vaccines and treatment and $525.3 million investment over four years to reduce PBS safety net thresholds, however other groups are critical.
National President of the Pharmacy Guild, Professor Trent Twomey said the Budget fails to address affordability issues, noting the maximum general co-payment for the PBS, now $42.50 will hit $50 by the end of the decade.
Post-COVID-19 preventative health
Since 2020, the Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC) has been working to raise awareness of the importance of keeping up with other aspects of healthcare amidst pandemic lockdowns. Data has consistently demonstrated concerning falls in people presenting for routine checks.
The Government recognised the long-term impact this will have on the health system and will be investing $55.7 million to encourage Australians to resume having their regular health checks, diagnostic screening, and other preventive health activities.
This investment includes:
- $10.2 million for a cervical cancer screening campaign promoting the rollout of self-collect tests
- $10.2 million for a colonoscopy triage nurse pilot to help improve colonoscopy access
- $9.7 million for short term surge capacity for BreastScreen Australia
- $5.9 million for rapid cervical screening testing and follow-up, including Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities
- $4.1 million for a pilot of non-medical healthcare provider delivery of cervical screening. Part of this funding will also remind Australians to refocus on their overall health.
- $15 million communication campaign encouraging people to stay up to date with their health checks and to encourage continued uptake of telehealth.
$28.1 million will go towards establishing Genomics Australia and integrating genomics into the health system, to support the diagnosis of a range of illnesses, from cancer and diabetes to rare diseases.
There will also be a focus on allergies and anaphylaxis with an investment of $26.9 million to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of allergic diseases, as well as support and advice for sufferers and their families. This follows the 2020 report ‘Walking the allergy tightrope: addressing the rise of allergies & anaphylaxis in Australia’ by the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport.
The government is investing $170.6 million in a range of new and amended MBS items, including:
- $81.2 million to make Mackenzie’s Mission for genetic carrier screening a universal and permanent part of the health care system. This includes genetic testing for cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy and fragile X syndrome (FXS) for couples who are planning pregnancy or who are already pregnant.
- $14.8 million for new and amended items for obstetrics and gynaecology.
- $32.6 million for positron emission tomography (PET) for initial ages of patients diagnosed with rare and uncommon cancers.
- $14 million to amend the current MRI of the liver item to include all cancer types that have potentially spread to the liver.
- $10.6 million to amend the current MRI of the breast item for patients at high risk of developing breast cancer, raising the age limit from 50 to 60.
- $6.6 million for abdominoplasty for the surgical repair of postpartum rectus diastasis (separation of the large abdominal muscles) following pregnancy
- $2.7 million for six new items for the treatment of varicose veins to enable co-claiming with some other venography items
- $400,000 for cryoablation for biopsy-confirmed renal cell carcinoma
- $200,000 to enable cardiac MRI for myocarditis to continue for a further six months
- New items for neuromuscular disorders, including cascade testing for couples and family members to support family planning
- Reviewing and reprogramming of neurostimulators for chronic pain by videoconference
- Remote programming and monitoring new items for deep brain stimulation and cardiac internal loop recorders
- New items for TAVI low risk population and CEP embolic net insertion, and · New and amended items for melanoma excision.
- $3.9 million will help improve access to vital information for clinicians and patients regarding medicines, diagnostic tests, and possible harmful medication interactions through a redesign of Quality Use of Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Pathology (QUDTP) Program.
As previously announced on the weekend, the government will be investing more than $333 million in women’s health with a focus on endometriosis, cancer screening and treatment, and sexual, maternal and reproductive health.
There wasn’t much to report on men’s health however, after considerable advocacy from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Government will allocate $700,000 to update clinical guidelines to promote early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
While nothing that wasn’t already known was announced on Tuesday night, the Government put a name to its strategic plan for the biotech sector: Biotechnology in Australia – Strategic Plan for Health and Medicine.
This aims to support the development of the biotechnology sector in Australia by helping translate research into commercial outcomes.
- $501 million to establish a co-investment program with government equity investment complementing private sector funding for promising biomedical discoveries, assisting in their commercialisation. It does so by addressing capital and management constraints to encourage the development of companies that are commercialising biomedical discoveries.
- The $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, a measure under the MMS, that identifies health and medical products as a key growth area and supports Australian manufacturers to become more competitive with successive rounds of funding under the Translation, Integration and Collaboration streams.
- The University Research Commercialisation package commits more than $2.2 billion over 11 years across several initiatives, including providing incentives for research with commercial outcomes, and partnerships between universities and businesses.
- An agreement, in-principle, with the Victorian Government and global mRNA company Moderna to establish a new sovereign vaccine manufacturing facility in Australia. It will produce respiratory mRNA vaccines for potential future pandemics and seasonal respiratory illnesses, and strengthen biopharmaceutical research and development, clinical trials and global supply chain access.
London Agency will be providing further Budget and federal election analysis in the coming weeks. If you would like assistance in understanding how the Budget impacts you or how you can advocate for funding or policy change ahead of the election and beyond, please contact the team here.