Joe Hockey has justified the cuts to Medicare rebates, by saying that people born today may live to 150. The Future Party is also optimistic about the life expectancy of people into the future. However, for life expectancy to increase, two things must occur: increases in health care provision and increases scientific research. This government seems intent on making cuts to both these areas, something that puts the notion of extended life at risk.
Firstly, by cutting funding to Medicare, people will utilise primary health care less. It is a fundamental concept of economics that increasing cost decreases demand. The impact will be that people will see a doctor less regularly for routine check ups. This will reduce the rate at which people get immunisations, check their blood pressure and cholesterol, and get suspicious lumps checked out, all of which will lead to increased disease and death.
Secondly, funding into research must continue. We cannot simply rely on purely medical research, either. For example, Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) is an important medical tool that could not exist without advances in quantum theory. Funding of theoretical quantum research was not seen at the time as an investment in medical technology, but it was absolutely required before we could have such technology. The government's cuts to our research institutions will reduce the scientific output of scientists at those institutions.
This topic highlights the way different parties deal with long term risk and costs. The Future Party believes in fiscal responsibility; the government should not greatly outspend the budget it has. However, trying to balance the budget of Australia in 50 years time using changes to universal health care today is unreasonable. The idea that the economy and priorities of the Australian public will even vaguely resemble today's requires a lot of assumptions that we simply can't be confident about. The real question should be "Can we afford it today?" If the answer is “yes”, then we should continue to fund basic health care.
If anything, a world in which people live substantially longer times will result in people who have a greater proportion of the lives capable of working. Less lifetime will be spent as a child, and in order to achieve great life times it is also likely that people will spend more of their older years lucid and mobile. This means greater productivity which will likely support the welfare state.
The Future Party acknowledges that the health budget is large, but also that the provision of health care provides value much beyond the monetary cost today, by preventing more expensive disease and unnecessary deaths. If at some point, a new technology is too expensive to provide, the government can make a decision either to not provide it or raise taxes to cover the operation, but the provision of basic health services can and should continue to be provided to all people.