Doctors in surgery

Health care system unfair, muddled: report

Australia’s health system is unfair and muddled and the prescription for its repair depends on the federal government’s approach to private health insurance.

In a paper on private cover, Grattan Institute analysts Dr Stephen Duckett and Kristina Nemet warn the sector faces a death spiral if young, healthy people continue to drop their cover.

An “unhappy mix” of partially public and partially privatised health care in Australia has led to a system “riddled with inconsistencies and perverse incentives”, the paper released on Tuesday says.

A new framework is needed but the government must decide whether the purpose of the private system is to complement or substitute for the public one, before considering if further subsidies are the best solution to save the health insurance industry.

Taxpayer subsidies total around $9 billion a year, including $6 billion for the private health insurance rebate and $3 billion for inpatient private medical services.

If private health was meant to be complementary – offering “add-ons” or services not available under universal public health – then the argument for increasing public subsidies was weak.

More than half of all Australians have private health insurance that covers services not taken in by Medicare, including dental, optical and allied health services such as physiotherapy.

“If government is not prepared to provide those additional services universally, it is illogical to subsidise for a subset of the population through (insurance), especially when that subset is not the most disadvantaged in the community,” the Grattan paper argues.

But if private insurance was to be a substitute for the public system, offering faster care to those who can afford it, then the argument for increasing subsidies was strong – as long as the private system can show it’s cost-effective.

However, Dr Duckett and Ms Nemet say it’s hard to compare the efficiency of the two sectors given previous studies have contesting findings.

But they conclude that, overall, it’s unlikely taxpayer subsidies of private health insurance reduced the total spending on health.

“Ultimately, the final judgement about the value of subsidies for PHI will involve balancing the net benefit relative to the net costs, both to government and society, taking into account who pays, the role of government, and the value placed on the complementary role of private care,” the analysts said.

The Consumers Health Forum wants a Productivity Commission inquiry into the role of private health insurance in the Australian health system.

“There are suggestions that private cover facilitates ‘queue jumping’, providing access to care in public hospitals based on insurance status rather than patient need,” CEO Leanne Wells said,

“Australians must ask whether we want to live with such a broken system.”

© AAP 2019

Cervical Cancer Cell

Women ‘shy away from cervical cancer test’

Australia could be the first country to eradicate cervical cancer by 2035 if fewer women were embarrassed to get the potentially life-saving screening.

New research by the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation released on Thursday found a third of women put off having a cervical screening because it’s “awkward”, while a quarter are “embarrassed”.

Ten per cent are concerned they aren’t “normal down there”, while eight per cent are concerned they might smell or aren’t groomed appropriately.

The research was released as part of the foundation’s cerFIX2035 campaign aimed at eradicating cervical cancer by 2035.

“Eradication is within our grasp – that is a truly exciting and achievable proposition,” the foundation’s CEO Joe Tooma said in a statement.

To make it a reality, the current cervical screening test participation rate needs to increase from 50 per cent to more than 70 per cent, he added.

High take-up rates of vaccination offered at schools must also be maintained.

General practitioner Ginni Mansberg hopes the campaign starts a conversation.

“It’s important we continue to talk about screening and the value it provides to enable us to normalise the conversation, debunk common myths and most importantly, to encourage each other to attend,” she said.

“It is perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable – over 40 per cent of women tell us it is – that’s why it’s important to talk to family and friends who have been through it, to better understand what to expect.”

In December 2017, the Pap smear was replaced by the cervical screening test, which is required every five years instead of every two years.

The new test is more accurate at detecting the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, the main cause of cervical cancer, but nearly half of women surveyed were unaware the screening had changed.

REASONS WOMEN PUT OFF CERVICAL SCREENING:

  • Awkward 32.3 per cent
  • Embarrassed 27.6pc
  • Painful 18.5pc
  • Exposing 17.7pc
  • Fearful 15.8pc
  • Violating 8.6pc
  • Male GP 8.4pc

Source: Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, PureProfile Consumer Survey, 2019

© AAP 2019

Young woman smoking a cigarette

Smokers three times more likely to die from stroke, five times more likely to develop gangrene

A DISTURBING new study has found cigarettes are causing 17 preventable deaths a day in Australia – or 6400 every year – from stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

The comprehensive study – touted as the most in-depth of its kind in the world – found smoking was more damaging than previously thought, impacting the entire cardiovascular system.

Led by Australian National University Professor Emily Banks, researchers followed more than 180,000 smokers and non-smokers for seven years, examining 36 different types of cardiovascular diseases.

The study found Australia’s 2.7 million smokers were twice as likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack or heart failure, and were three times as likely to die from these diseases compared to people who had never smoked.

It also found smokers were five times more likely to develop peripheral cardiovascular diseases such as gangrene.

Limiting the number of cigarettes smoked daily also doesn’t help much, with the research finding people who smoke an average five cigarettes a day were still twice as likely to be killed by cardiovascular disease.

Those who quit for good, however, and stop smoking by the age of 45 are said to avoid about 90 per cent of the cardiovascular risks.

Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Member Associate Professor Seana Gall said the study showed that at least 30 percent of strokes could be prevented if we could eliminate smoking altogether.

“Too many families continue to be devastated by stroke and heart disease when it could have been prevented,’’ Acting Professor Gall said.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are or how many cigarettes you smoke, they are all causing harm, but the good news is by quitting, individuals can reverse this damage and live a long healthy life.”

Smoking can lead to stroke in a number of ways.

It increases blood pressure, it contains thousands of toxic chemicals which get absorbed into the blood stream damaging blood vessels and causing arteries to narrow and harden and it makes the blood stickier, which can lead to blood clots.

Acting Professor Gall said Australia was tracking well in reducing smoking rates and stopping teens from taking up the habit in the first place, however more must be done.

“While smoking prevalence has fallen over time, around 2.7 million Australians currently smoke and we must continue to help people quit through government measures and anti-smoking campaigns,’’ she said.

“I recognise giving up smoking is hard, and you may not be able to do it the first or even the second attempt, but saying goodbye to cigarettes is worth it for yourself and those who love you.”

The new data was published in the international journal BMC Medicine on Thursday.

Talk to your doctor about quitting or call the national Quitline on 12 78 48 (13 QUIT).

Here’s where you can get fit alongside an NRL legend on the Gold Coast

If someone tells me ‘winter bodies are made in summer’, the first instinct I have… is to eye roll and walk away.

But not this time.

I’ve always wished I could get fit over winter, but warm pasta dishes, red wine, rugging up on the couch and NOT moving is where it’s at.

If that’s you, feel free to hit the back button and stop reading right here. Or, if you’re ready to be convinced like I was that now is a better time than any to get fit, then here we go.

ENTER: Arguably the quickest way to burn bulk calories, F45.
ALSO ENTER: An incredibly good looking, former NRL star, training buddy, Scott Prince.

Word has it you can now train beside a sporting legend, and F45 Bundall is the place to do it.

Prince has been playing league for over twenty years. He’s played for our good ol’ Titans, as well as the Wests Tigers, the Cowboys, the Broncos, and he’s played Origin for Queensland.

So they don’t come much better, and he’s no stranger to training HARD.

He’s been training at F45 Bundall for the past 3 years but rumour has it; he’s about to take on the franchise’s next global 8 week challenge (beginning on July 22).

So YOU can train with HIM!

I’m not a stalker. But that’s a big incentive for me.

Prince is also lined up to help the trainers with extra sessions and Q&As, for those who want the extra benefits of his sporting knowledge.

Otherwise you can just say g’day to him in class!

Prince will only be training at F45 Bundall, and apparently they’re running a two week free trial so you could realistically just spend two weeks sweating your butt off while drooling over Scott Prince.

You’re welcome.

Did I mention there’s a trip to Bali up for grabs too? I must have been too distracted by the Scott Prince thing…

For more information, click here.

Daffodil Day Volunteer

Volunteers needed for Daffodil Day appeal

Cancer Council Queensland is calling on locals to show their support for the Daffodil Day Appeal by selling fresh daffodils to raise funds for vital cancer research.

The Daffodil Day Appeal will take place throughout August, culminating in Daffodil Day on Friday, August 23.

This year, Daffodil Day celebrates 33 years of turning Australia yellow, and local volunteers are needed to help sell daffodils at various locations around the Gold Coast.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said preparations for Daffodil Day were well-underway, but more volunteers were needed.

“Cancer Council works across every aspect of cancer, but we rely on the generosity of community donations to help fund our work,” Ms McMillan said.

“We want to encourage everyone to get involved this Daffodil Day, with the knowledge that your involvement will give hope to everyone affected by cancer.”

This year, Cancer Council Queensland are looking for more than 480 volunteers across the greater Gold Coast and City of Logan areas to give a few hours of their time to help us sell fresh daffodils at over 50 sites.

“If you enjoy meeting people and love the idea of helping raise funds for a vital cause contributing to a cancer free future, then you’re exactly who we’re looking for,” Ms McMillan said.

This year, Cancer Council Queensland hopes to raise $1 million to support its vital work in cancer research through the Daffodil Day Appeal.

There are many ways to support the Daffodil Day Appeal; volunteer your time, get your school or workplace involved; donate online, or buy a daffodil pin or fresh daffodils on Friday, August 23.

For more information or to get involved, visit daffodilday.com.au or call 1300 65 65 85.