Last week I received a little note in the mail from our GP reminding me that the Little Sister is due for vaccinations.
When I phoned to make an appointment, I asked if it still included the "Healthy Kids Check". The receptionist explained that starting 1 September 2015, Medicare would no longer provide funding for the Healthy Kids Check item number.
Up until now the Healthy Kids Check has been an assessment of a child’s physical health, general well-being and development, with the purpose of initiating early medical interventions if need be. It's gone hand in hand with four year old immunisations and made sure that kids go to school ready and able to learn.
I missed the memo, but when the budget was released in May, the program was scrapped. The cynic in me suspects it's the present government throwing the health check baby out with the previous government's bathwater, but that's merely heresay.
What I know for sure is that last year 154,000 children - about half of Australia's four-year-olds - used the program at a cost of $20 million. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2014 found the check was detecting problems in about one in five of the children seen. The most common problems identified related to speech and language, followed by toilet habits, hearing, vision and behavioural issues.
In May, the Minister for Health Hon Ms Susan Ley, said the government was expecting to save $144 million over four years by cutting the program. I'm not privy to the decisions of the cabinet, but saving $144M without having made allowances for the costs associated with delayed detection of children's illnesses seems like false economy.
Just for kicks, I visited the Department of Finance website yesterday and added the parliamentary expenditure on travel (drivers, overseas trips, family holidays to Perth, helicopter rides), for second six months of last year. $18,698,130.3y. Yep, $18 million for half a year. Remember, the Healthy Kids Check program costs just $20M per year.
Scrapping the Healthy Kids Check program is wrong, so I've started a petition asking the Minister for Health Hon Ms Susan Ley and Treasurer Hon Joe Hockey to reinstate funding to the program.
If you feel that without the Healthy Kids Check kids might fall through the cracks, I urge you to sign it too. Click here to sign.
Hon Ms Ley MP, we appeal to you to continue to invest in the health of Australian children by reinstating the Healthy Kids Check and afford Aussie kids the benefits of early detection and medical intervention for their illnesses.