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Analyzing a Major Policy in Australian context: Health Policy

Task:

The major policy report provides you an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills in policy analysis, policy development and policy advocacy, although the relative balance between each element might vary depending on the topic. In this assignment you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the following areas:

  • familiarity with major state, national and international institutions and arrangements that influence and shape the selected policy; 
  • familiarity with the contemporary policy environment within which this field of health policy is located; and
  • familiarity with the evidence, leading arguments, and main political forces associated with this particular policy. 

You will choose a policy issue of interest to you, and identify an institutional/a stakeholder’s perspective from which you will be undertaking the exercise. Ideally, you will:

  • define the problem, quantify − be specific about problem’s scope and magnitude, affected group(s), and specify the nature of the problem;
  • examine the historical development of the policy issue; 
  • analyse the factors which have influenced the course of policy development and implementation (including the institutions and the actors); 
  • consider the strengths and weaknesses (or benefits and costs) of current and/or proposed policy positions; and
  • propose realistic policy improvements based on evidence and analysis.

Answer

Introduction

Health policy mainly refers to the set of decisions, actions, and plans that are taken into account in order to achieve the particular health care goals for a specific society. An explicit health policy taken by a particular nation or state is able to achieve different things. Kromhout (2017) said that it mainly describes the vision for the future prospect that mainly helps to create the proper set of targets and the particular point of reference in order to achieve both the short and medium term goals. Along with that, the health policy mainly outlines the different priorities along with the roles and the responsibilities of the different groups. In addition to that, it creates the harmony and informs the stakeholders about the different aspects of the health policy.

The primary aim of this particular study is to evaluate the proper analysis of the major health policy in Australia. Along with that, the study also aims to satisfy the different problems regarding the health policy and satisfies the fact that how the different stakeholders are affected through this particular policy. The study also defines the strength and the weaknesses regarding the policy and defines the factors that have influenced the statements of the policy. In addition to that, the study also provides a certain amount of recommendations to the public health policy so that they can easily improve in terms of their service and can understand their flaws regarding the proper maintenance of the policy. 

Major policy report

Heath care system in Australia mainly provided by both the private and the government institutions. In addition to that, there is another publicly funded healthcare system in Australia that is known as Medicare. It was established in 1984. However, Kay & Boxall (2015) said that it is integrated with the private health system. This particular healthcare system was partially funded by the low-income earners having a proper amount of balance that is provided by the government in terms of general revenue. Along with that, the high-income earners of the society fund another part. Along with the Medicare, there is another pharmaceutical benefits scheme that has also been funded by the government bodies that is also considered as the subsidy of the prescription medications. The Australian health care system has witnessed a great impact on the political bodies in terms of the funding purposes. As the government is very much important in order to shape the national health policy, therefore they have an ample amount of impact over the funding model of the health policy. If the statistics are taken into consideration, it can be seen that in 2005-06 there was only a single doctor per 322 patients and a single hospital bed per 244 patients (Australia.gov.au, 2017). After the census of 2011, the Australian government has recorded near about 70,000 people including both doctors and the special medical practitioners who are associated with near about 300,000 nurses (The Commonwealth Fund, 2017).

The country has a universal health care structure with the help from the federal government who pays a large portion of the cost that is associated with the different health services. It includes the different public hospitals also. Willis, Reynolds & Keleher (2016) said that, the amount that the federal government needs to pay mainly consist the cost regarding the patients that are based on the benefits of the Medicare schedule. Generally, it covers near about 75% of the general practitioners along with 85% of the specialist and the entire cost of the hospital cost of the public. Along with that, the service users or the patients may also have the different types of advantages regarding this particular factor. In addition to that, the service users may also have the benefits whenever they cross a so-called approach of safety net. That benefit is basically based on the overall expenditure of the year for that particular service user. The service users pay the balance of the health regarding costs then until the service provider chooses to use the process of bulk billing. In addition to that, the service users are liable to pay the cost regarding the services that are not covered by the policy such as the ambulance, unless and until they have a Heath card. Moreover, according to Badlandet al. (2014), the individuals can also have the private health insurance in order to cover up the extra costs that are termed as the out-of-pocket cost. They may select a plan that covers all the different aspects of the health-related services. However, a service user may also be left with the extra expenses regarding his or her treatment as the private healthcare service centres or the private hospitals cost significantly higher than the general payments of the insurance. The Australian government is encouraging the people with a proper level of income to be privately insured. They continued this particular process by charging those individuals a payment of near about 1% of their income level if they do not take themselves out of the private insurance system. This is mainly to encourage the people who rely upon that they are able to afford the private insurance (Shanahan et al. 2015).

The funding part of the health systems in Australia is the proper integration of the government funding and the funding from the private health insurance. Koot & Wallander (2014) said that the government funding could be done through the Medicare scheme that cuts down the extra cost regarding the treatment of a particular service user along with the funds that are free from the universal access to the treatments that has been provided in the hospitals. On the other hand, the private health insurance funds the private health and a proper number of the private organizations that is also known as the health fund provides it. Medibank hold the largest health fund with having a 30% market share. Medibank was mainly set up to provide a tough level competition to the private health funds that are for profit. In Australia, some of the private health insurance are created to make the profit and the other ones are the not for profit organizations like CBHS health fund (Nakanishi & Nakashima, 2014). Some of them have the membership that is restricted to the particular groups and some of them mainly focus on the specific areas such as the HBF that centres on the Western Australia, however, the major portion of that has an open membership. The major portion of the Australian private health insurance is mainly regulated by the Private health Insurance Act 2007. Along with that, an independent agency deals with the different complaints and the various reporting of the health insurance industry. That particular organization provides a proper annual report that consist the total number of the complaints about the health-related funding and calculates the nature of the particular complaints. According to Gleeson & Friel (2013), the Australian private health system mainly operates based on a community rating where the premium amount does not vary based on the individual's previous medical history or their current health state. Maintaining the balance for these certain, aspects are known as the waiting period. The funds are allowed to impose a particular waiting period of 12 months based on the benefits of any kind of medical condition that provides the proper signs of which that existed during the end of the six months, specifically on the day that the individual first take the insurance.

Along with that, there are an ample amount of matters based on which the funds are not allowed in order to create the discrimination regarding the terms of premiums. This mainly includes the religion, employment nature, racial origin along with the sexual orientation. However, Peeters & Gilmore (2015) said that it need to take into account that the premiums for a particular fund that has been sold to the different states, can vary from state to state. In addition to that, the government of Australia has provided a number of incentive schemes that mainly encourage the adults in order to take the private hospital insurance such as the lifetime health cover, the Medicare levy surcharge, the rebate in the private health insurance. According to the terms of the lifetime health cover, if an individual has not taken out the insurance cover by their 31st birthday, then they have to pay an extra premium of 2% per annum. However, this extra burden applies only to the premiums for the different hospital covers. Along with that, the people have the taxable income that is greater than the specified amount and who do not have the proper amount of private level hospital cover, needs to pay 1% surcharge over the 1.5% Medicare levy (The Department of Health, 2017). In addition to that, the rebate in the private health insurance mainly subsidies the different premiums regarding the private health insurance covers that include the cost of the hospitals and the extra costs such as the transportation that use the ambulance.

In addition to that, the Australian government introduces some programs. One of them is the initiatives that are undertaken by the federal institutes. The Medicare Australia is mainly responsible for the proper administration of the Medicare that provides the subsidies for the different health related services. It is mainly concerned with the payment of the different doctors along with the nursing staffs and the funding of the hospitals that are maintained by the state. In addition to that, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme mainly delivers the subsidised medical treatments to the service users. However, Hannaet al. (2015) said that the level of subsidy depends on the level of income of that particular person. The people having relatively low level of income may receive a health card that provides them with the subsidy in case of treatment. The different state programs include the public hospitals along with the different health care initiatives. The states are mainly responsible regarding the different operations of the public hospitals. In addition to that, the projects that are based on the particular state needs to set specific targets that they can easily focus on. On the other hand, the different non-government organizations such as the Australian Red Cross Blood Service also take a certain amount of initiatives regarding the proper service to the different service users. They mainly deal with the collection of blood along with the blood donation. Moreover, the other health services such as the MRI are also provided by the organization; however, the patients can still appeal to the government if they have the medical covers. Along with that, according to Murphyet al. (2016), the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) provides the required funding to the different health and medical research and generates the different statements regarding the different policy issues.

However, there is a certain amount of issues regarding the overall fact. One of them is the proper workforce. The HealthWorkforce Australia in the early half of 2012 published a report and it said that in 2025 Australia would face the shortage of near about 3000 doctors along with 100,000 nurses (The Department of Health, 2017). Therefore, it can be said that it would also hamper the quality of the service provided by the service users. Having the skilled people in the account can easily enhance the level of service and make the service users happy. In addition to that, the most important thing is the availability of the health care support. The health care service that is provided in the metropolitan areas differs largely from the service level in the rural and remote areas of Australia. It has found that the people living in the remote areas are facing the biggest problems regarding their health and their life span has reduced with the enhancement in the remoteness of the area. Along with that, Eimeet al. (2015) said that it has also been seen that the aboriginal and the indigenous people experienced the worst health situations that the non-indigenous people. In order to mitigate these issues, the Australian government has taken some initiatives such as the Disability Care Australia. Along with that, the healthdirect provides an easy level of access to the trusted and the quality health related information. The Australian government entirely funded this particular initiative. In addition to that, they have also introduced the DoctorConnect that mainly encourages the doctors from the other countries in order to work with the Australian doctors in collaboration (Heilbrunn-Lang et al. 2016).

There are an ample amount of strength and the weaknesses regarding this particular health policy. Along with the strength and the weaknesses, there is also some sort of opportunities and the threats for this particular policy. This is considered as the innovative idea and it can be considered as one of the strengths of the system. Along with that, the service users have the capabilities to the advantages regarding the cost that can be considered as another strength factor regarding the policy (Johnson & Zimmet, 2015). Moreover, it also creates the cultural connection in between the people from different origins. Along with that, it also helps the different health organizations and the Australian government to create a good level of reputation. In addition to that, it can also take the other aspects that may add value to this particular policy. Along with that, this particular policy also generates the special set of experienced people who can provide the service to the service users in such a way so that they get satisfied. In addition to that, according to Paculaet al. (2014), the policy also gets an ample amount of benefit regarding the geographic location for this particular policy. However, there are also some factors that are considered as the weaknesses of this particular policy. One of them is the absence of the proper marketing plan. The Australian government needs to follow the proper marketing plan in order to carry out the public health policy. The people need to know about the different sides of the policy, therefore the proper marketing is very much essential. In addition to that, the Australian government also needs to put the focus on the different areas in which they are lagging especially the different service areas. Along with that, technological aspect is another factor that can be granted as the weakness of this particular policy. The policy needs to use the recent technology in terms of providing the proper level of service to the service users. Moreover, managing the staffs at the health care unit is also considered as another weakness for this policy. Besides those mentioned factors, Burgess (2014) said that the undifferentiated lines of service and the vulnerability from the side of the government also considered as the weakness factor for the above-mentioned policy. Along with the strength and the weakness, factors there are also some factors that drive the opportunities for the particular health policy. The market is available with new and updated technology that can be used in order to maintain the policy by providing the proper amount of service by taking the relevant cost. In addition to that, there has been a change in the people’s need and the Australian government can easily cope up with the need of the people. Based on the requirements of the people, the policy has introduced the HealthDirect, DoctorConnect that made the service users able to get in touch with the overseas doctors. Besides that, some threat factors also need to be taken into account. One of them is the shift in the economic factors. According to Tulchinsky & Varavikova (2014), the Australian government needs to understand the shift in the economic position of the country and based on that they have to decide their changes in the policy. In addition to that, the skilled employees also need to be retained by both the private and the government health centres.

Based on the above analysis, there can be some suggestions that Australian government should take into their account. They need to put more focus to the outcomes of the policy rather than providing an ample amount of emphasis to the measuring processes. The service users are mainly interested in the results of the policy as the results mainly reflect the fact in what the service users are interested. In addition to that, the Medicare also needs to ensure the fact that the proper utilisation of the performance measures provides an ample amount of support to the efforts to the quality improvement. In addition to that, the quality measurement needs to be done at the organizational level rather than at the clinician level. Along with that, the policy need to measure the experience of the service user and should gather the feedback from them. This may enhance the quality of the service level along with the other different aspects of the public health policy. In addition to that, the policy needs to use the measurement in order to promote the exact concept of the health care system. These sorts of initiatives need to be supported by the improve care. 

Conclusion

After summing up the entire study, it can be concluded that the public health policies are an essential factor that can drive the life of the people irrespective of their gender, caste, and creed. In addition to that, the study also provides a detailed description regarding the different aspects of the public health policy such as the rate of subsidies and the condition based on which the service users can enjoy the subsidy. In addition to that, the study also provides a detailed description regarding the different strength and weakness factors regarding the public health policy. Along with that, the study also derives the importance of the technology in this particular aspect such as the introduction of the DoctorConnect and HealthDirect. In addition to that, the study also provides a proper set of recommendation regarding the public health policy. The study has concluded the fact that the service users are much interested in the results rather than the process through which the result has been achieved. Therefore, the Australian government needs to consider certain steps in order to make the public health policy much more effective and efficient.

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