Major parties start pre-election health 'pitch'

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The major political parties have started rolling out their health policies ahead of the 21 May federal election.

On Saturday, the Coalition announced a plan to reduce the general PBS co-payment by $10 per prescription, from $42.50 to $32.50.

The move was quickly better by Labor with leader Anthony Albanese announcing a planned $12.50 reduction to $30.

Shadow health minister Mark Butler said. “We know out-of-pocket health care costs are too high in Australia and among the highest in the OECD countries. Cutting the cost of medications will help millions of Australians. Our changes to the PBS mean that the trip to the chemist won’t be an expensive one."

Under both proposals, annual indexation will continue to apply.

The Coalition has also announced a plan to extend access to the seniors health card. Under the $70 million commitment, an additional 50,000 will become eligible for the card that provides access to cheaper medicines and other health services. The eligibility threshold will be raised on 1 July to $90,00 for singles and $144,000 for couples. Labor has matched the commitment.

Mr Albanese also stopped short of committing a future Labor federal government to a 50-50 public hospital funding split with the states and territories.

"We know the pressure that’s there on the hospital systems. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve put forward, for example, urgent care clinics. Urgent care clinics are aimed at taking pressure off emergency departments, because we know that emergency departments are under such pressure," he said.

'The other thing that we’re doing is being upfront in our discussions with the premiers. We’re not promising things in advance and then we’ll say something different after the election campaign. What we’re doing is being very clear.

"I’m aware that premiers would like increased funding. Premier Palaszczuk has raised it with me. All of the state premiers, Labor and Liberal, wrote to the government. I think it was last year. So it’s nothing new about this.

"What we’re doing, though, our policies are measured. We’re inheriting off a government that doubled the debt before the pandemic, $1 trillion of debt. So that is why we are being very responsible, very measured, in the proposals that we have put forward."