Concerns Over Rushed Prostheses List Changes

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This week the Department of Health issues a consultation paper discussing options for reforms and improvements to the Prostheses List.

The Department said it was seeking the input from stakeholders to support an evidence base for future Prostheses List reforms and improvements. The consultation paper contains a number of questions for consideration by stakeholders.

The consultation process announcement follows the recent release of two reports: Options for a Revised Framework for Setting and Reviewing Benefits for the Prostheses List and the Review of the General Miscellaneous Category of the Prostheses List.

The reports acknowledged the significant risk of unintended consequences that could arise because of poorly planned Prostheses List reform including limits to patient access and choice, and the increased risk of cost shifting onto patients. Neither report was able to reach a definitive conclusion about the future direction of the Prostheses List.

The chance to engage in constructive Prostheses List reforms were welcomed by a range of industry groups including the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA), Catholic Health Australia (CHA) and the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA).

APHA CEO, Michael Roff, said APHA welcomed the opportunity to be part of the discussions, which to-date have not fully involved private hospitals, consumer, or the medical profession.

“Considering doctors determine which prostheses they use in surgery, particularly in the private setting, it is important this anomaly is corrected,” Mr Roff said.

The message from stakeholders is clear: any reforms need to ensure they do not lead to a ‘managed care’ system where the ability to pick a doctor, medical device, or the procedure that’s best for the patient is compromised.

Concerns have been raised over the weight being given to the Private Health Insurance lobby’s position to transition Australians’ health to a system where insurers can refuse to allow patients access to devices they deem unnecessary for them to have to pay for.

MTAA CEO, Ian Burgess, said the consultation process was an important first step in the process to carefully consider positive reforms to the Prostheses List that genuinely reflect the considered feedback of all stakeholders, and the timeliest way to implement them.

“It’s vital that any reforms put forward by the Government do not remove the protections the Prostheses List provides for surgeon choice and patients access, or result in further out-of-pocket costs,” Mr Burgess said.

The Department set the submission close date for 15 February, meaning doctors, hospitals and MedTech innovators will be forced to work through the Christmas and New Year period (on top of managing the COVID pandemic) in order to ensure their voices are heard.

The decision by the Department to rush the consultation period over the holiday break has raised questions about whether Health bureaucrats have already decided on the reforms they want to implement.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Treasurer Frydenberg opened his speech by saying ‘The Great Depression and two World Wars did not bring Australia to its knees, neither will COVID-19’.

While this has not been unexpected, the Coalition is relying on job growing policies to drive the post-COVID economy, encouraging people to reskill, small businesses to invest in people and equipment while ensuring people have more money in their pockets to reinvest into the economy.

Personal and business tax cuts round out the major announcements, with significant spending in infrastructure, health and manufacturing also announced.

October’s Budget signals the first of three major economic updates to be presented by the Treasurer in the next eight months, with a traditional Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) scheduled for mid-December and the 2021/22 Budget locked in for May 2021.

Working through key portfolio areas, we have highlighted big-ticket items and critical promises to ease your navigation of a content-heavy time in the election cycle.

A copy of the Treasurer’s 2020 Federal Budget speech can be found here.


COVID-19 has brought the Health portfolio into sharp focus and the 2020/21 Budget continues to expand on the Coalition’s commitment to ensuring Australian’s are healthy during uncertain times.

Mental health was identified by the Treasurer as an area of particular focus along with ensuring supply of personal protective equipment and a future COVID-19 vaccine.

Key announcements include:

  • $16 billion as part of the Government’s ongoing health response to COVID-19 including $808 million for the acquiring of a COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX.
  • the New Medicines Guarantee, ensuring that all new medicines are listed with uncapped funding.
  • $5.7 billion for mental health including increased funding for psychiatric services.
  • $1.6 billion for a further 23,000 additional home care packages.


One of the two pillars of Treasurer’s Budget, infrastructure spending has been brought forward to ensure that there are enough bridges, roads and rail for the Morrison Government’s ‘Road to Recovery’.

Key announcements included:

  • Expansion of the 10-year infrastructure pipeline equating to $14 billion for new and accelerated projects, including $7.53 billion in national transport infrastructure to boost the economy, deliver safer roads and create jobs.
    • In NSW, $2.7 billion in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • In VIC,  $1.1 billion in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • In QLD $1.3 billion in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • In SA, there will be $625.2 million in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • The NT will get $190 million in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • In TAS there will be a $359.6 million in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • The ACT will get $155.3 million in road and rail projects where relevant.
    • WA will get $1.1 billion in road and rail projects where relevant.
  • $355.9 million for additional aviation support.
  • $327.5 million for Perth City Deal.
  • $74.8 million for Darwin City Deal.
  • $2 billion over two years for minor scale road safety projects.
  • $1 billion over two years for the extension of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.
  • $2 billion to assist farmers who have been affected by drought and bushfires.


Building upon the JobMaker package and Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP’s changes to university education, jobs formed one of the Government’s two key pillars for the road to recovery.

Key announcements included:

  • $240 million to encourage female workforce participation including: new cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, job creation and entrepreneurialism, and women’s safety at work and at home.
  • 50,000 new higher education short courses in agriculture, health, IT, science and teaching.
  • 12,000 new Commonwealth supported places for higher education in 2021.
  • 2,000 indigenous students through the Clontarf Foundation to complete Year 12 and pursue further education or find employment.


First announced by the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, last Thursday at the National Press Club, industry and advanced manufacturing has been identified as a key aspect of Australia’s economic recovery.

In addition, there have been further announcements on the Research and Development Tax Incentive as well as funding for the CSIRO.

In addition, this week also saw:

  • $1.3 billion manufacturing package, focussing on six key manufacturing priority areas: food and beverage, resources and minerals, medical products, clean energy, defence industry and space industry.
  • $2 billion for additional Research and Development tax incentives – removing the cap on refunds, lifting the rate and rewarding those businesses that invest the most.
  • $459 million in additional funding to the CSIRO.


In addition to the infrastructure and jobs packages, the Government announced measures to ensure that more money remains in the pockets of Australians.

This also included an extension to the Instant Asset Write-Off to ensure small businesses can purchase new and upgrade existing equipment.

Key announcements included:

  • Stage 2 of the previously legislated tax cuts, extending the 19% bracket from $37,000 to $45,000 and the 32.5% bracket from $90,000 to $120,000.
  • $26.7 b for an extension of the Instant Asset Write-Off for business with turnover <$5 billion.
  • Establishment of ‘YourSuper’ designed to reduce waste in the superannuation industry and saving Australians $17.9 billion.


Tourism and Trade took a backseat in this Budget, but the industry was not forgotten, with a specific focus on regional tourism.

Key announcements included:

  • $233 million to upgrade facilities in Uluru, Kakadu, Christmas Island and Booderee National Park.
  • $350 million to support regional tourism to attract domestic visitors back to the regions and a further round of the Building Better Regions Fund.


On 22 September, the Hon Angus Taylor MP, announced that five technologies will receive prioritized support under its Technology Roadmap.

Key announcements included:

  • $18 million will be spent via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the emissions reduction fund and environmental grants. The targeted government investment will focus on clean hydrogen energy storage, low-carbon steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon.
  • $52.9 million package to tap into Australia’s gas supply.
  • $1.5 billion over four years to sustain and encourage local manufacturing and private investments including clean energy.
  • $40 million funding package and $20 million will be invested in coastal ecosystems under a federal government COVID economy recovery plan.


This week saw the final sitting week before the release of the Federal Budget on 2 April 2019, with a formidable round of Senate Estimates defining the tone on the hill.

Key announcements included:

  • $2.6 billion over three years for two $250 payments to be made from November 2020 and early 2021 for recipients of the age pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Family Tax Benefit, Carer Allowance, Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Holders, eligible Veterans Affair’s payment recipients and health cardholders.
  • $15.6 billion in 2020-21 due to the relaxation of the JobKeeper eligibility requirement, with companies only having to prove their turnover was sufficiently effected in the previous quarter.
  • $4 billion dollars over three years, $200 dollars per week if they hire somebody between 16-29 and $100 per week if they are between 30-35. Employees hired via the subsidy must increase the overall employment of any given business.
  • $2 billion over five years to relax the JobSeeker partner income test taper
  • $798.8 million for quality and safeguards commission over four years, supporting half a million patients on the NDIS.


With the Australian Government reaching and exceeding its goal of 2 per cent of GDP assigned to the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Defence took a back seat during this year’s Budget:

Key announcements included:

  • $1.5 billion over four years to sustain and encourage local manufacturing and private investments including in defence and space. Defence was also one of the advanced manufacturing areas identified by the Prime Minister as an industry of critical strategic growth.
  • The acquisition of new capabilities represents 40% of the total defence budget in 2020-21, headlined by the Navy’s construction of the Hunter Class Frigates and Attack Class submarines.


Part of the Government’s broader Infrastructure and Regional Development plan, funding commitments for further agriculture and water infrastructure were made in this year’s Budget.

Key announcements included:

  • $2 billion in concessional loans to help farmers overcome the devastating drought
  • $350 million to support regional tourism to attract domestic visitors back to the regions and a further round of the Building Better Regions Fund, and
  • $317 million for Australian exporters to continue to access global supply chains, building on the 80,000 tonnes of exports the government have already helped get to market.
  • $567 million for the Wyangala and Dungowan dams with our investment totalling.
  • $2 billion in new funding to build vital water infrastructure across the country as part of the national water grid including dams, weirs and pipelines.


Other key announcements which cross multiple portfolios included:

  • $201.5 million over four years for the previously announced 2020 Cyber Security Strategy as well as $128 million over four years for AFP, Home Affairs and AUSTRAC.
  • $238 million over the first four years and $39 million in subsequent years for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
  • An additional $129 million for the Relief and Recovery Fund to tackle projects of importance.
  • $796 million for the Digital Business Plan to encourage digital transformation in the private sector.


THis budget analysis and overview Was PROVIDED BY THE TEAM AT NEXUS PUBLIC AFFAIRS.


MTAA endorses the Prime Minister’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This week’s announcement was widely welcomed by many in the MedTech industry, with leaders signalling that the almost $1.5 billion in new investment to be a clear indication of the Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring Aussie Manufacturing, particularly MedTech, can continue to be a global leader.

Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) CEO, Ian Burgess, has congratulated the Morrison Government on its policy and called upon the industry to take it up in full.

“More than half of Australian medical device companies have grown from local start-ups, so today’s announcement will make an important impact where it is needed most, shoring up Australia’s MedTech innovators now and into the future,” Mr Burgess said.

The Australian MedTech sector has been steadily growing, and now has over 19,000 people directly employed by the industry – many of these in manufacturing. The MedTech industry is an employer of choice; 78% of employees in the industry have a degree, 25% have a postgraduate degree. Today’s announcement will ensure that employment in the sector continues to grow.

The $107.2 million allocated to the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative will mean industries such as MedTech can continue to ensure all Australians have access to medical devices when they are needed.

“During COVID-19 the Government asked MedTech to supply 7,500 ventilators, the MedTech supply chain worked, and the ventilators and other essential medical equipment were delivered,” Mr Burgess said.

MTAA and its MedTech members have thrown their support behind the measures the Prime Minister has today outlined, which, we believe, will improve Australians access to the best and latest medical technologies they need, and can distribute these to the world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Colin McFarlane’s Story – Life with a Heart Valve Implant Since 1973

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]After waiting six months for the valve to arrive from the United States, Colin was operated on at RPA by pioneering heart surgeon Bruce Leckie, and told he would need the valve replaced in 10 to 15 years.

“But once we got to 15 years, everybody threw their hands up in the air and said ‘pick a number, we don’t know’,” Colin says.

“So, here we are in the 47th year. It seems like it’s indestructible.”

But it almost never happened.

In 1958, retired engineer Miles Lowell Edwards, who had suffered rheumatic fever himself as a child, had set out to build the world’s first artificial heart.

Edwards presented the concept to Dr Albert Starr, a young surgeon at the University of Oregon Medical School.

Starr thought the idea was too complex and encouraged Edwards to focus on developing an artificial heart valve instead.

Within weeks, Edwards was sending Starr prototypes built in his home workshop.
And then in September, 1960, they had incredible success when the caged ball design was implanted in a 52-year-old man who underwent a “spectacular recovery and return to normal life”.
Last month, Colin and his daughter, Cheryl, visited Edwards Lifesciences in Macquarie Park tell his story – and thank the people who saved his life.

“We were told dad had a life expectancy of mid 50s,” says Cheryl.

“He’ll be 83 in February. You’ve given us a dad for a lifetime. But you’ve also given us a dad who hasn’t been sickly; a dad who has enjoyed life; who came to sports with us; who could take us on holiday.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Revealed: Private Health Insurers Profiteering From COVID-19

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The data shows that during COVID-19 private health profiteers have raked in gross mega-COVID-profits of $1.03 billion, while cutting the actual benefits paid to policy holders to $20.3 billion, down $600 million from 2019.

Clever accounting to shift $1.4 billion worth of benefit payouts from the distant future into the June quarter does not change the facts.

Private health profiteers have also increased their management expenses by 15.8% on the latest quarter, a total of more than $650 million – far exceeding the $500 million in savings insurers claim to have returned to members.

The APRA data also showed that total benefits paid for prostheses decreased by 14.7% in the June 2020 quarter compared with March 2020, despite only a 12.9% decline in hospital benefits paid.

The APRA June quarter statistics on Private Health Insurance highlight once again the savings that have been delivered by MTAA’s Agreement with the Commonwealth, despite the enormous financial pressures being faced by the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the continued reduction in the cost of medical devices for patients – a direct result of the $1.1 billion in cuts that MedTech innovators delivered through MTAA’s 2017 Agreement with the Government to help make healthcare more affordable – the APRA data has shown a significant spike in insurer profits, which are expected to continue to rise, year on year.

Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) CEO, Ian Burgess, has called on private health insurers to reverse their premium increases and return windfall profits to their customers as Australian families continue to struggle with COVID-19. “As MedTech innovators, doctors, nurses and essential workers have pulled together to reduce costs and support the Government’s fight against COVID-19, struggling Australian families are rightly asking why private health profiteers are still raking in windfall profits at the expense of everyone else,” Mr Burgess said.

“If private health insurers in Ireland, and even car insurers in Australia, can return premiums to their customers in this time of national unity, why can’t these private health profiteers give back some of their windfall profits to struggling Australian families? Why can’t they put people before profits?”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Medibank says the investment is part of the corporation’s broader strategy to “support hospitals and doctors” by having patients recuperate at home, rather than in hospital.

Federal president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), – the organisation representing Australian doctors – Omar Khorshid, has raised the alarm of Medibank’s acquisition in The Australian newspaper this week.

Mr Khorshid told The Australian he was seeking a briefing with Medibank about the acquisition and how it would protect the clinical independence of the hospital.

“While I’m sure Medibank will give us a lot of assurances regarding clinical independence and the doctors and patients making decisions, the reality is once you own the hospital an insurer has vastly more control of what goes on in the hospital, whether it be who works there, how much is charged and the particular model of care and how patients are treated,” Mr Khorshid told The Australian.

Many Australians do not support the Americanisation of Australia’s healthcare system, which in the United States, can costs tens of thousands of dollars and leave the most vulnerable of society without basic healthcare.

Last year corporate health insurance lobby group, Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) called for the Government to consider to privatising healthcare in Australia by incentivising large corporations to take out health insurance for employees – as is done in the United States – taking away people’s choices about healthcare.

PHA’s Chief Executive, Rachel David, called the proposal “modest” and said it “would put the private health insurance industry within reach of young people who will benefit from healthcare services not readily available to them in the public sector”.

At the time, the Doctors Reform Society (DRF) President, Dr Tim Woodruff, slammed the proposal and questioned why private health insures wanted these changes.

Dr Woodruff said the proposal was an attempt by corporate health insurers to get more taxpayer support for themselves to make more profits.

“The majority of Australians don’t have private health insurance because it’s a bad product,” Dr Woodruff said.

It is unclear yet what effect Medibank’s hospital acquisition will have on clinician choice or patient outcomes, but many still remain concerned and questioning whether Australians can afford to import the type of americanised healthcare that has left so many American families struggling.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]MTAA CEO, Ian Burgess, has blasted the health insurers for profiteering and playing politics at a time of national crisis, and called into question the timing and motives of the PHA distraction campaign.

“This dodgy document, produced and distributed by the private health insurers’ lobby, is a blatant attempt to distract from their profiteering during the pandemic, by attacking the hard working healthcare workers who are on the frontlines trying to save lives,” Mr Burgess said.

“In the middle of the COVID  spike in Victoria, and at a time when everyone, federal and state governments, public and private hospitals, government and industry, manufacturers and distributors,  doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are all working together to help save lives, private health profiteers are more interested in smear tactics trying to make an extra buck at the expense of the community.”

The Impacts of COVID-19 have been felt across the entire healthcare sector, and will continue for years to come.  But despite these impacts, MedTech innovators have pulled together in an unprecedented effort to support the Morrison Government’s pandemic response.

Through a historic collaboration with the Government, MedTech successfully secured supply of essential medical equipment, not only through the global supply chain but through a number of innovative local partnerships, that were able to ramp up Australian manufacturing in a remarkably short period of time.

While MedTech innovators have been instrumental in securing essential supplies of ventilators, test kits and PPE for the Government, private health profiteers have raked in windfall profits on the back of the pandemic, while simultaneously cutting back on claims for hospitals and extras since the suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries in late March.

Mr Burgess highlighted the timing of the dodgy document’s release, just ahead of private health insurers’ annual profit reporting period.

“There’s no question that the release of this dodgy document was an attempt to start a distraction campaign aimed at drawing attention away from the private health insurance companies profiteering during the COVID-19,” Mr Burgess said.

“These political tactics and smears are an insult to the healthcare workers who have been focused on getting Australia through this once in a generation health crisis. It’s time now for private health insurers to stop putting profits ahead of people and join the team against COVID-19.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As part of the 2020 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the two countries have agreed on an AUSMIN Global Health Security Statement, which commits them to strengthening their health cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in 2020 and beyond.

Together, Australia and the United States have committed to helping build Indo-Pacific partner capacity in biosecurity, biosafety and bio-surveillance to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

The two nations said they will work with countries in the region to improve hygiene conditions, and mitigate zoonotic disease and pandemic risks associated with wildlife wet markets. They will also work to strengthen public health emergency operations centres in selected partner countries, such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, said the partnership between the two countries plays a significant role in improving and advancing health security across the Indo-Pacific region.

The Statement, which has been developed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United States Department of State, builds on Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, and the United States’ Global Health Security Strategy.

Australia and the United States will continue to work with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve vaccine access in the world’s poorest countries.

In addition to the immense health and social impact, the IMF has projected that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the world US$9 trillion dollars over the next two years. Australia will remain committed to participation in regional and global health forums, including with the United States.

Minister Payne said that more than ever before, both Australia and the United States recognise the need for concrete action and leadership to support global health security in our region.

The full text of the statement can be found here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Medibank Private and Bupa have failed Australians during COVID-19: CHOICE

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Medibank Private and Bupa have failed Australians during COVID-19,” says Dean Price, health campaigner at CHOICE.

“The two biggest funds have performed the worst when it comes to helping Australians during COVID-19. The biggest funds should have the most capacity to help their customers, but instead they’re being shown up by not for profit and smaller funds who have less capacity, but have chosen to put the community first.”

“With people struggling during this economic and health crisis, people are keen to do what is best for their health and their finances, but Medibank Private and Bupa need to do a lot more to help Australians through this,” says Price.

Profiting from COVID-19

With reports earlier this month that insurers pocketed $1 billion in the space of 42 days, CHOICE says there’s no excuse for Medibank Private and Bupa to continue with price rises on October 1st.

“With Victoria in lockdown again and unemployment still rising, it’s just outright greed for Medibank Private and Bupa to charge Australians more on October 1st. These companies are saving massive amounts of money while people are unable to use many health services

– companies increasing prices is simply taking advantage of the situation,” says Price.

PR puffery versus real help

“CHOICE presented the five major health funds with five areas of COVID-19 support they could improve, with the simplest being transparency – publishing their hardship policies so people can find out what they’re entitled to and how to get help. Instead of telling customers what help they’re eligible for, Medibank Private and Bupa sent out media releases and continued to make people jump through hoops,” says Price.

“While their marketing departments have been quick to tell the community how they’re helping but our research has found a lot left to be desired in their COVID-19 responses.”

How did the rest fare?

“HBF came out on top of the list as they are the only fund so far that has cancelled this year’s premium increase,” says Price.

“In an example of industry leadership, HBF deserves to be recognised for its decision not to increase premiums in the middle of this pandemic. This is in stark contrast to the other funds who are increasing their premiums on 1 October. Other sectors, like banking and utilities, have recognised that the impact of this pandemic is going to be felt for a long time to come and extended their response beyond 1 October. The private health insurance industry needs to keep up with these industries who have acted more fairly,” says Price.

CHOICE is calling on private health insurers to:

  • Not increase premiums on 1 October
  • Give any windfall gains back to customers
  • Let people use any unused extras next year
  • Have hardship policies in place for people who have lost their job
  • Publish their hardship policies online

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