Last updated: April 28. 2013 10:58PM - 740 Views

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Our politicians are only forestalling the inevitable by refusing to face up to the historic challenges in health funding.


Shaping up on ABC1’s Q&A on Monday, federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and her opposition counterpart Peter Dutton were quickly bogged down in the minutiae of political diagnoses and second opinions.


Sure, the blame game between state and federal governments over health has not ended, and sure, it is difficult to determine where sensible support for private health insurance ends and middle-class welfare begins. But politicians could go from the humidity crib to the palliative care bed trying to outbid each other while avoiding the main issue.


This week’s Grattan Institute report about the budget pressures on Australian governments pointed out that 19 percent of expenditure was spent on health.


Access to expensive technology kicks in even before conception through IVF, and may improve our lives through laser surgery and subsidized medicines, before new procedures and drugs extend our twilight years and smooth our passing. Potential health expenses from cradle to grave are almost limitless.


At some stage, politicians will have to grapple with the tough choices about what should be standard care and what is not. Glib lines about everyone having access to the world’s best care may sound like social justice but the promise, in reality, is not deliverable.


Increasingly the critical questions will be about the universal standard governments are prepared to offer public patients, whether co-payments may play a role for some treatments, and how private insurance can constrain the burden on the public system.


The Australian, Sydney

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