Health initiatives 2023-24: Mercer's Australian Federal Budget 2023-24 analysis and insights 

Female doctor examining throat of girl while family sitting in medical room

05 February 2023

Supporting the resilience of the most vulnerable workforce

In today’s challenging times with ongoing crises affecting businesses and employees, such as inflation, workforce exhaustion, climate-change, talent crisis and the high cost of living, the Government presented a package of investments aimed at protecting the productivity of the most vulnerable workers.

Investments in improved cost of living, access to healthcare, affordable childcare, social housing and ongoing support for improved equality for women (each described in more detail elsewhere). Additionally, the government is committing $556.2 million over the next five years, along with $36.0 million ongoing, to strengthen Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system, which will provide significant support to those in need.

However, despite this investment, between 81%* and 93%** of the workforce is at risk of burnout. The pressure remains on employers to prioritise and support the health, resilience and productivity of their employees, particularly those not directly impacted by this Budget.

* Mercer Global Talent Trends 2022-23

** MMB Health on Demand 2023

Mercer’s Perspective

Mercer welcomes the government's investment in improving access to healthcare, affordable childcare, and support for managing the high cost of living for the most vulnerable members of the workforce.

Implications for employers

Employers retain most of the burden for supporting the resilience and productivity of their workforce. While this budget provides some support for the most vulnerable employees, employers must prioritize the health and wellbeing of all their employees.

Implications for individuals

For those employees significantly impacted by the high cost of living, limited access to affordable healthcare and childcare, and inflation, this Budget will provide much-needed relief.

Accessing more Bulk Billing

The Government will provide $3.5 billion to triple the bulk billing incentive benefits for consultations for Commonwealth concession card holders and patients aged under 16 years of age.

Mercer’s Perspective

Mercer welcomes the significant increase in the funding of bulk billing for these impacted individuals and families, reducing their out-of-pocket costs for medical consultations.  

Implications for individuals

Greater access to no cost medical consultations will reduce the financial impact on employees and families and help address the increased cost of living pressures. 

Reducing the costs of medicines

The Government will support more than 300 Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines to be dispensed in greater amounts, phased in from 1 September 2023. Some patients will be able to get 2 months’ worth of the medicine they need for a stable, chronic health condition, cutting the number of visits to a pharmacy and GP each year and saving $1.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs over 4 years. 

Mercer’s Perspective

The reduced need to visit a doctor for a script will reduce the burden on doctors and the challenge of individuals struggling to make appointments. 

Implications for employers

Employees will not be required to visit the doctor as often to get new scripts reducing the impact of employees needing to visit doctors during working hours. 

Implications for individuals

This will reduce the doctor visits and the costs related for individuals making appointments with doctors to get scripts re-issued. 

Additional funding for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics

The Government will provide additional funding of $358.5 million from 2022–23 to deliver Medicare Urgent Care Clinics by the end of 2023, including funding for eight new Clinics.

Mercer’s Perspective

Additional bulk billed urgent care clinics are welcomed and will reduce the pressure on existing GP clinics and public hospitals emergency departments.

Implications for employers

Employees will be able to access more medical centres after hours, reducing the burden to take time off within business hours to seek medical treatment for employees or family members. 

Implications for individuals

More access to free emergency clinics is welcomed enabling employees to get quicker and free medical treatment when needed. Greater after-hours operation and no bookings required will help individuals and families. 

Mental Health

The Government will provide $556.2 million over 5 years from 2022–23 (and $36.0 million ongoing) to strengthen Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system.

Mercer’s Perspective

Additional funding for mental health is very welcome in addition to the spending on mental over previous Budgets.

Implications for employers

The pressure remains on employers to prioritise and support employee’s health, resilience & productivity for a majority of the workforce untouched by this Budget.

Implications for individuals

Additional funding for Mental Health will assist individuals seeking assistance for mental health concerns. 

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