A Shorten Labor Government will take on the country’s biggest killer – cardiovascular disease – with a new $170 million investment in Medicare that will save lives and improve the health of Australians.
If elected, Labor will fund a new Medicare item for comprehensive heart health checks so that doctors can better prevent, detect and manage this deadly and costly disease.
Cardiovascular disease, which causes both heart attacks and strokes, is Australia’s leading cause of death and illness – with almost 8,000 deaths a year from heart attacks alone.
Labor’s investment, part of our Fair Go Action Plan to protect and strengthen Medicare, will prevent an estimated 76,500 heart attacks and strokes over five years.
It will ensure that all at-risk Australians can undergo heart health checks as part of a comprehensive vascular screen that tests their blood pressure and cholesterol, and looks at lifestyle factors such as smoking status.
Similar programs have been used successfully around the world to bring down heart disease rates.
This investment is our first down-payment on a broader Medicare funding package to help GPs tackle chronic disease among patients who enrol in their practices.
We will announce further investments in the lead up to the federal election.
And it comes on top of our commitment to ending the six-year Liberal freeze on Medicare rebates, which has already ripped $3 billion out of Medicare and out of the pockets of patients.
This is Scott Morrison’s Medicare freeze. As Treasurer in 2016, he extended the freeze to 2020, cutting another $925 million from Medicare.
Scott Morrison has also failed to fund these heart health checks. He should match Labor’s investments immediately.
Heart disease is caused by a range of factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use and physical inactivity. That means this is a largely preventable disease – we just need to give GPs and patients the tools to combat it.
Many of the risk factors for heart disease are the same for cancer and other chronic diseases, meaning this investment in general practice and Medicare will improve the nation’s health more broadly.
Beyond the personal toll, heart disease has an estimated economic impact of $6.7 billion a year including $2 billion in direct health costs. So this is a smart investment that will ultimately save our health system money.
This plan has the backing of the Heart Foundation and a range of other health groups, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Consumer’s Health Forum and the Public Health Association.
We will work with GPs, patients and these stakeholder groups on the design of the new Medicare item.
But it shows once again that only Labor can be trusted to protect and strengthen Medicare.