Witnessing this year’s Federal Budget in Canberra was a very different experience to the restricted and subdued announcement of last October! With enthusiastic, but somewhat socially distanced crowds and networking back, the 2021 Budget made health a necessary focus once again. The tight alignment of the nation’s health to our economic recovery was firmly front a centre. So if you managed to miss it – here are some of the health highlights from a Cube perspective.

Despite the underlying cash deficit forecasted as $106.6 billion this year the Federal Government was positive and upbeat on Australia’s budget position thanks to a quicker-than-expected economic recovery from our first recession in three decades.

Described as a pre-election ‘sugar sweetener’ for all and the building of a ‘gilded cage’ with our border control requirements, the 2021 Budget offered ‘something for everyone.’  With health at the centre, it prioritised quite rightly COVID-19 vaccinations, aged care, mental health and disabilities with a nod to women’s health and innovation. Prevention was firmly prioritised.

For those of us working in the pharmaceutical sector – beyond the substantial COVID-19 vaccine commitment – a welcome allocation of $878 million was made for new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The $503 billion dollar investment into the health of Australians over the next four years, appeared ambitious and overwhelming as the Honourable Greg Hunt, Minister for Health detailed his priority areas.

COVID-19 vaccinations: 

  • The Government continues their necessary commitment to the COVID-19 response, with an allocation of $1.9 billion dollars for the purchasing and distribution of vaccines.
  • Investments in mRNA manufacturing capabilities onshore were also in the mix, but without a formal confirmation on what the Government is willing to invest.

Mental health:  Commitment was given to a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan delivering the largest single mental health and suicide prevention investment in Australia’s history.

  • This includes a $158.6 million dollar aftercare plan for people who attempt suicide.
  • But to note – despite rates of suicide attempts and ideation remaining stable, the prevalence of depression, anxiety and eating disorders which are risk factors to suicide attempts are increasing.
  • So it’s important to also see the Government will also make a $112 million dollar investment across digital services, expansion of the Head to Health centres and increase online professional counselling and peer support services.
  • Questions were however raised on the need for greater Indigenous centred mental health services in regional Australia notably for children and young adults.  A greater focus here will be welcomed by many.

Women’s health: Another focus was on several priority areas for women including:

  • A $535.9 million dollar investment for women and girls who are suffering from, or at risk of, endometriosis, preventing premature birth and detection and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.
  • A commitment to further research into pre-term birth and genetic testing for pregnant women was also made.

Innovation:  A small nod to support scientific innovation was given with increased spending on manufacturing and patent protection.

  • Importantly a critical step in protecting local innovation come with a proposed Patent Box which will support patents in Australia with a reduced tax rate of 17% from 1 July 2022 for the medical and biotech sectors.

Overall the Federal Budget covers a very broad array of health areas – keeping Australians well, productive, and supported will be critical to our economic recovery. We know the health hangover from this pandemic will last for a very long time – our ongoing focus on health, without question, will need to be consistent and considerable.

For more information and a full budget summary, please see below the Federal Minister for Healths’ formalised statement. https://bit.ly/3hqYnL8

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