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.
- 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