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.
This Charming Mum says
This check wasn't available for my big kids but I'm due to book Mr4 in. I had no idea the funding was being cut! Our GP receptionist was having a whinge about it though as it takes about an hour and throws out all their bookings. They've also started charging a $50 refundable deposit for it because so many people were making the appointment and not showing up. I'll certainly sign the petition, but it makes me wonder whether some GPs aren't also involved in the decision to cut (or reform) it?
Amanda Smyth says
Thanks for signing Lara. With regard to consultation with Medicos, while I was researching my post I came across this quote from the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Frank R Jones said he was disappointed by the federal government's decision, which was made without consulting GPs.
"Restricting this service to state-based programs will limit access and further fragment care by forcing families to seek care outside their regular general practice," he said.
Speech Pathology Australia president Professor Deborah Theodoros said scrapping a check that facilitated early intervention services for children with problems before school "made no sense at all".
"The Health Minister has only recently announced there is to be a review of the Medicare Benefits Scheme. Now even before this review has commenced this important health check is to be effectively killed off," she said."
I'm sure the program isn't perfect, but without it I think many kids will fall through the cracks and not get the start they deserve at school.
Lara at This Charming Mum says
Yes, I agree. Good on you for bringing it to our attention.
Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me says
This will really affect a lot of families, especially those who might not otherwise have access to such checks, you're a trooper - now to get one of the big bloggers to spread the word for you also!!
Amanda Smyth says
I only found out by accident Emily. Disappointed that I didn't realise earlier!
Wow I had no idea this had been scraped! Off to sign the petition now, good on you Amanda!
Amanda Smyth says
Thanks for helping bring attention to the problem. x