Monday, 28 April 2014
ABC News 22 April 2014:
The ABC has learned a number of Medicare Local chief executives have been told the Federal Government plans to shut down the current system.
Speculation has been mounting that the local health bodies, which were set up under the Rudd government to organise community-specific health programs, will be scrapped in next month's budget.
Late last week chief executives of the 61 community-based health organisations held a series of a conference calls to discuss the Government's plans for the scheme.
Some of the Government's proposals for 2014-15 under serious consideration include:
· ending funding to Medicare Locals
· establishing larger statutory agencies to funnel state and federal funding
· heavier involvement of private health insurers
· more focus on GP involvement
· putting services out to public tender
· abolishing the peak body Australian Medicare Local Alliance
The potential changes have caused widespread angst among the local healthcare organisations.
A circular obtained by the ABC, sent to the heads of each Medicare Local by its peak body, urges each organisation to lobby their local member of Parliament.
"I would urge MLs [Medicare Locals] to continue to engage across the political spectrum and highlight, not only the good work of MLs but what would be lost if MLs were not there," it said.
There are concerns the changes will lead to more centralised control and a move away from the locally driven programs offered by each organisation.
Sources say communities would no longer be involved in deciding what programs would run.
"Many of the programs have been running for two years and are just starting to hit their straps and show results," one industry source said.