The current Government has delivered its budget and is crowing with delight that it has managed to come up with a surplus, which is great. It comes on the back of full employment (because we drastically reduced the migrant intact during covid) and the coal industry. It’s good to know there’s finally going to be a long overdue overhaul of the Medicare system. Not even a decade ago I used to read stories from friends in the UK about the problems they had in getting to see a GP and marvelled. We could ring up for an appointment and see the doctor in the next couple of days, even for non-urgent issues like getting a new script.
But that was then. Now the wait is more like a fortnight. So, we’ve ‘caught up’ with the rest of the first world.
Our hospital system is creaking at the seams and one reason is that doctors are no longer bulk billing. That’s when the government pays for the cost of a consultation. But the bulk billing fee has remained the same for many years and doctors cannot run their businesses on that income. In this article, a doctor has worked out what’s happened to bulk billing since 1984. Patients are being asked to pay a fee, some of which is then rebated from Medicare. With the cost of living rising sharply – particularly energy and housing – poorer people are often having to choose between going to the doctor or paying the rent. And if they MUST see a doctor, they go to ER. It’s good to see the Government has agreed to substantially increase the bulk billing rebate.
One other measure being discussed to ease the pressure on GPs is to allow doctors to prescribe common medications for on-going conditions like cholesterol and blood pressure to cover twelve months instead of six. Makes sense, doesn’t it? It means an immediate reduction in the number of consultations required to basically write out a script. I fondly imagined that meant that a doctor would give twelve repeats instead of six. But no. You still only get six repeats, but each time you get two of whatever it is. Eg two boxes of perindropil. The problem with that is there has been for some time problems with supply of medications. Much of it comes from… yes, China. I’ve had several occasions of late when particular medicines could not be dispensed because there wasn’t any. It’s obvious doubling the quantity supplied each time will exacerbate that situation. Understandably, pharmacists are not happy. I really don’t see why doctors couldn’t just write a script for twelve months instead of six, with patients buying their meds every month as they do now. Probably too straight forward. Here’s some more discussion on the issue.
All in all, the budget wasn’t bad. Of course, the opposition found fault. That’s it’s job. But the most important part of Peter Dutton’s budget reply was that it offered hope to conservative voters that the Liberals were finally going back to their roots and offering a real alternative instead of Labor-lite. He spoke of smaller government and lower taxes so that people can make their own decisions about what to do with their money. And I particularly liked the push-back on the insanity of thinking renewable energy – wind and solar power – can cover the 24/7 demand for power. Dutton has proposed that we consider using gas or nuclear power stations that can cover those times when the wind doesn’t blow (or blows too hard) and when the sun doesn’t shine (like, you, know, at night). He has pointed out that the anti-nuclear cringe looks a bit silly now we’re going to be running nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS program. Nuclear reactors have been run for years around the world and even Japan has reopened its nuclear stations.
Which brings me to my last topic for the week, AI.
There has been much talk about how AI art will put people like animators out of jobs. This youtube video was made by a long-time Disney animator who has lived through the whole evolution from Snow White to Beauty and the Beast and Avatar. In essence, he sees the AI revolution as just another tool to make life easier. It’s just one opinion, of course, but he’s a voice worth listening to. It’s about 20 minutes long.