Families will face large rises in the cost of living if the recommendations of the audit commission are introduced.
Families will pay more from birth to death, with costs rising for childcare, medical services, drugs, the removal of family tax benefits and the opening of pharmacies to competition which may effect services in rural and regional areas.
The commission recommended a severe paring back of Tony Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave scheme, capping it at average weekly earnings (currently $57,460) rather than up to $100,000 as announced this week. Childcare could see an increased funding from the savings out of PPL and nannies would be funded under the funding envelope. But childcare would face more stringent means-testing.
The Family Tax Benefit Part B – currently paid to sole parents and stay at home parents – will be abolished and only sole parent families will receive a supplement to make up for the loss.
Co-payments of $15 would be introduced for all Medicare funded services, with safety net payment of $7.50 for more than 15 visits a year and $5 for concession card holders.
Co-payments would also be placed on all medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to ensure the introduction of “user-pays” principles.
The commission would like to see higher income earners encouraged to take out private health insurance for basic services to replace Medicare.
Likewise, they suggest state governments should be encouraged to introduce a co-payment for less urgent emergency department visits.
Other cost saving measures in Medicare include increasing the general extended Medicare safety net threshold from $2,000 to $4,000 and auditing the Medicare benefits schedule to replace expensive items with cheaper alternatives.
The commission would like to strip some of the regulations from private health insurance funds to give greater flexibility to vary premiums to account for “lifestyle” factors like smoking.