Federal election imminent: what commitments need to be made to help improve the lives of those affected by cancer?
With the federal election to be held before the end of May this year, cancer and broader health organisations have been developing election ‘manifestos‘ or ‘platforms’ for presentation to federal politicians in the lead-up to the time when Australians will elect the people who will determine the future direction of the country in the next three years.
Rare Cancers Australia (RCA) has combined with Private Cancer Physicians of Australia (PCPA) to produce an election manifesto that contains ‘carefully thought-out, cost-effective initiatives [that] have been developed by some of the nation’s most experienced and respected oncologists, supported by Australia’s leading patient advocacy groups.’ The manifesto’s recommendations include:
- introducing an MBS and PBS ‘Cancer Patient Safety Net’ that allows the benefit of both schemes to flow immediately to the patient, upon the clear diagnosis of cancer
- providing support for cancer patient facilitators to help patients navigate the often complex health system
- the creation of a technology-driven ‘financial concierge’ system to ensure all bills (regardless of what, and where, that provider is) can be seen and centred in one place to reduce ‘bill shock’
- permanent patient access to subsidized specialist phone consultations
- permanent return of the 50% loading for video consultations for regional and remote patients, and
- Commonwealth support for a pilot program to financially enable people living with cancer in rural and regional Australia to access investigator-led clinical trials away from home, with the introduction of a ‘Rural Care Travel Project’, coordinated by RCA to provide financial assistance to cancer patients accessing such trials in both private and public health settings.
At the broader health level, Consumers Health Forum Australia (CHF) has produced an election ‘platform’ that is focussed on urgent and long-needed reforms to ‘an already straining [Australian] health system, in need of fundamental reform and restructure, [given that it is] grappling with a deadly pandemic that disproportionally affects the community’s most vulnerable people’.
The CHF election platform recommends the incoming Government focus on four key areas to deliver the changes people in Australia urgently need in their health care. These are:
- Primary health care reform centred on GP-coordinated integrated services
- Commitment to preventive care, including allocating 5 per cent of the health budget to prevention
- Developing health consumer participation, including founding an Australian Health Consumer Leadership Academy and continuing the national Youth Health Forum
- Improved access to health services including expanding public dental services.
Of particular note in the CHF platform is the inclusion of the difficult and long-running issue of patient support for travel and accommodation costs, with a recommendation for the introduction, during the first 12 months of the new parliamentary term, of:
‘a national patient assisted travel scheme, that extends eligibility to trial treatments and has consistent eligibility and inclusions across the country, and funding to contribute to the costs of travel and accommodation for country consumers receiving care in urban centres’.
I identified this as a critical issue for people affected by cancer, as the representative of Cancer Voices Australia on the CHF election platform steering committee that oversaw, with significant patient and consumer input, the development of the platform. It was obvious from the discussion of the issue by the committee that travel and accommodation support is a major issue across all disease and condition areas, and isn’t confined to just cancer.
Information in this article courtesy of Rare Cancers Australia and Consumers Health Forum Australia.