Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has handed down $115.5 billion for health, aged care and sport through the 2020–21 Budget, with the portfolio seeing an additional $32 billion in funding over the next four years.
What does this Budget mean for people living with chronic pain?
Overall, it is disappointing to note there is limited targeted funding towards addressing pain management, despite the prevalence and pervasive nature of chronic pain.
While support and investment of initiatives such as enhanced access to mental health, continued support for telehealth and increased funding for MBS and medications will undoubtedly benefit the 3.4 million Australians living with chronic pain, the lack of access to important on-ground services such as affordable access to multidisciplinary care will continue to see health costs related to chronic pain spiral.
There is limited funding for specific initiatives relating to pain and pain management. The Budget includes funding for the regulation of medicinal cannabis however, there is still a concerning lack of evidence-based research into its effectiveness and safety for people living with chronic pain.
The Budget does include funding allocated towards awareness of migraines, as well as the implementation of the unique ID system to protect consumers who receive medical devices and implants. This is good news given some of the enormous failures such as surgical mesh. Medical device post market tracking and follow up is an essential consumer fail-safe.
Much more needs to be done in terms of providing tangible supports for the millions of vulnerable consumers who live with the impact of debilitating chronic pain every day to alleviate their pain and reduce the costs to the health system. The pandemic and the recent opioid changes have made life very difficult for people living with chronic pain – it has never been more critical to ensure pain is a national health priority.