Labor calls on Coalition to match its commitment to expand newborn screening

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Labor has called on the Coalition to back its commitment to a national takeover over Australia's patchwork of newborn screening programs.

Leader Anthony Albanese recently announced that if elected Labor will launch a $38 million expansion of Australia's newborn screening programs in a move that will effectively see the national take over the current 'postcode lottery' for babies.

Australia's current programs are administered by individual states and territories. Very few diseases have been added to these programs in recent decades.

The current Coalition federal government did announce changes to the process for evaluating the addition of new diseases for newborn screening.

The complex and lengthy new process includes bureaucratic review, consideration by the Commonwealth chief medical officer and a full health technology assessment (HTA) by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC). Even then, the inclusion of any disease is a matter for individual states and territories.

The new process effectively requires individual patient groups to develop and submit the HTA submission to MSAC.

"The Morrison Government should immediately come to the table and match this policy, increasing the number of conditions tested from around 25 to 80," said shadow health minister Mark Butler.

"They have had a decade to bring the states together and make this a reality but have put it in the 'too hard' basket."

Mr Butler said Labor will match the Coalition government's recent commitment to reduce the costs of Medicare-funded assisted reproductive technology services.

"No matter the election result, more than 6,000 Australians will be reassured that there will no longer be additional stresses when going through their pregnancy journey," he said.

"Labor will also match the Government’s pledge to subsidise the storage costs of preserving embryos and deliver perinatal mental health and wellbeing services. Only Labor can be trusted to protect and strengthen Medicare for all Australians."