Budget 2024-⁠25: Cheaper medicines, new Medicare Urgent Care Clinics and more free mental health services in a stronger Medicare

Department of Health

The Albanese Labor Government is continuing to improve our health system: strengthening Medicare, the heart of universal healthcare, easing cost-of-living pressures with cheaper medicines, and embedding new mental health services in Medicare.

Our first Budgets rolled out 58 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics. This Budget adds a further 29 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, investing $227.0 million so more Australians in more locations can walk in and get the urgent care they need – fully bulk-billed – without waiting hours in busy hospital emergency departments.

Our first Budgets made medicines cheaper, with lower co-payments and 60-day prescriptions already saving Australians more than $370 million. The Government has committed up to an additional $3 billion for an Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement to strengthen community pharmacies and keep medicines cheaper. The Government will deliver a one-year freeze on the maximum co-payment for a PBS prescription for everyone with a Medicare card and up to a five-year freeze for pensioners and other Commonwealth concession cardholders. So medicines stay cheaper, instead of rising with inflation.

Our first Budgets took pressure off hospitals by making it easier to see a doctor, with the largest investment in bulk billing in the 40-year history of Medicare. This Budget delivers $882.2 million to ensure that older Australians get the medical support they need in a safe and comfortable environment when they don’t need to stay in hospital, while freeing up beds for other patients who do.

This comes on top of the Albanese Government’s commitment to significantly increase funding for public hospitals from 2025. Health Ministers have commenced negotiating the new National Health Reform Agreement Addendum to give Australians better access to healthcare services they need, when they need them, and alleviate current pressures in public hospitals across the country. The Australian Government will provide more funding to state public hospitals from 2025-2030, increasing the Commonwealth contribution to the cost of care to 45 per cent, from around 40 per cent, over the next 10 years.

Overall spending on health and aged care in 2024-25 is $146.1 billion, with a five-year commitment to invest $10.7 billion, including $8.5 billion in health and $2.2 billion in aged care. This includes investments to strengthen Medicare ($2.8 billion), deliver cheaper medicines ($4.3 billion) and invest in a fit and healthy Australia ($1.3 billion).

Strengthening Medicare

The Albanese Government is strengthening Medicare with more Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, more free mental health services, higher Medicare rebates for many common medical tests, and over $160 million for a women’s health package:

  • $227.0 million to grow the number of Medicare Urgent Care Clinics to 87. A boost in funding will allow for more patients to get urgent care from a doctor or nurse, and take pressure off busy hospital emergency departments.
  • $882.2 million to take pressure off hospitals, by ensuring that older Australians get the medical support they need in a safe and comfortable environment when they don’t need to stay in hospital, while freeing up beds for other patients who do. Funding will support states and territories to provide hospital outreach in the community, deliver virtual care to prevent avoidable hospitalisations and upskill the residential aged care workforce.
  • $361.0 million over four years to expand the range of free mental health services, so that Australians get the right level of care for their level of need.
    • Launching a new national early intervention service to ensure people can access support before their distress escalates to needing higher intensity services like a mental health treatment plan, acute in-patient service or crisis line.
    • Providing free mental health services through a network of 61 walk-in Medicare Mental Health Centres, building on the established Head to Health network. They will have their clinical capability upgraded to ensure every centre has psychiatrists, psychologists and GPs on call.
    • Funding Primary Health Networks, in partnership with general practices, to bring on mental health nurses and other allied health supports to provide free care coordination and support to patients with complex needs, in between GP and specialist appointments.

Whether in person, over the phone or on a device, at a free walk-in centre or from the comfort of your bedroom, we are expanding the ways Australians can get mental health care. This will help people get the care they need at every stage of distress, while relieving the pressure on the current Better Access scheme to be all things to all people, which in turn will make it easier for Australians who need a psychologist to get in to see one.

  • $69.8 million to increase the number of Medicare eligible MRI machines. Every single practice with MRI equipment will be able to provide Medicare funded services, almost tripling the number of fully Medicare eligible MRIs since we came to government, from 227 machines to 620 machines.
  • $266.9 million so Medicare rebates rise each year for nuclear medicine imaging and many common medical tests, which means more funding for the tests that matter, to reduce waiting times, catch health problems sooner, and prevent patients from having to settle for less appropriate tests.
  • $91.1 million to boost the supply of healthcare in areas of shortage. Primary Health Networks will support health services at risk of closing, the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service will deliver its health and dental services across outback Australia.

Cheaper medicines

The Albanese Government is delivering cheaper medicines to ease pressure on household budgets, freezing the maximum cost of a PBS medicine, making Australia a destination for clinical trials so Australians get early access to life-changing medicines, and adding more medicines to the PBS.

  • $469.1 million to reduce patient costs and improve access to medicines, with more funding for Dose Administration Aids and a one-year freeze on the maximum co-payment of a PBS prescription for everyone with a Medicare card and a five-year freeze for pensioners and other concession cardholders. So medicines stay cheaper, instead of rising with inflation.
  • $3.4 billion to list new medicines on the PBS, including for four thousand eight hundred Australians with cardiac disease that will benefit from the listing of Tafamidis (Vyndamax®) and mavacamten (Camzyos®). Without subsidy, patients could expect to pay $122,000 or $30,000 a year, respectively, but instead will pay only $31.60, or just $7.70 for pensioners and concession cardholders.
  • $18.8 million to make Australia a destination for clinical trials, so Australians get early access to life-changing medicines. A national one stop shop for clinical trials will streamline the health and medical research, make it easier for patients to participate in clinical trials for emerging treatments.
  • $1.4 billion over 13 years in ground-breaking new health and medical research through the Medical Research Future Fund, including an additional $411.6 million for low survival cancers and reducing health inequities.

A fit and healthy Australia

The Albanese Government is investing in a fit and healthy Australia, through new programs to address skin cancer, expanded access to free bowel cancer screening, efforts to realise Australia’s goal of eliminating HIV, and a boost to sports participation from the grassroots to high performance:

  • $25.3 million to prevent skin cancer, now and in the future. The successful national skin cancer prevention campaign will continue to reach groups most at risk of skin cancer, including men over 40 and young adults. An investment in the Melanoma Institute Australia, led by Australians of the Year Professor Georgina Long AO and Professor Richard Scolyer AO, will see the development of a national roadmap to better skin cancer outcomes.
  • $38.8 million to continue funding for free bowel cancer screening under the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. The age for free bowel cancer screening will be lowered from 50 to 45, so Australians between the age of 45 and 49 can request a screening kit.
  • $43.9 million to work towards eliminating HIV transmission by 2030. People with or at risk of HIV will receive better prevention, testing, and information, with the Government committed to eliminating HIV transmission by 2030. There will also be more training around HIV for the health and support workforce.
  • $132.7 million to boost sports participation. We’re supporting grassroots community and school sport to help Australians stay fit and healthy.

Women’s health

Removing the bias and barriers that hold women back in the health system will take time. That’s why the 2024-25 Budget takes important next steps to build women’s health into the foundations of a stronger Medicare, with a $49.1 million for higher Medicare rebates to see a gynaecologist for complex conditions like endometriosis, a revolutionary new medicine for breast cancer, and $56.5 million for new Medicare services for midwives to provide longer consultations before and after the birth of a child.

In Medicare’s 40th year, the 2024-25 Budget continues to strengthen Medicare after the damage caused by nine years of cuts and neglect that began when Peter Dutton started a six-year freeze to Medicare rebates and tried to abolish bulk billing by introducing a mandatory payment on every single visit to the GP. The 2024-25 Budget extends the generational reforms to strengthen Medicare, eases cost-of-living pressures with cheaper medicines, and embeds mental health at the heart of a stronger Medicare.

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