Book by UOW professor calls for urgent healthcare funding reform

Professor Simon Eckermann will launch his book 'Health Economics from Theory to Practice', at the University of Wollongong on Wednesday.
Professor Simon Eckermann will launch his book 'Health Economics from Theory to Practice', at the University of Wollongong on Wednesday.

A book being launched at the University of Wollongong on Tuesday highlights urgent need for reform in health and aged care and particularly in facing a rapidly ageing population.

The launch of Health Economics from Theory to Practice, comes a day after author Professor Simon Eckermann gave a public policy lecture on the topic in Sydney.

The senior Professor of Health Economics at UOW’s Sydney Business School and the Australian Health Services Research Institute, said a key policy section of the book is dedicated to the challenge of successful ageing of those born between 1946 and 1964 [baby boomers], without breaking health and aged care budgets.

His book points to key whole-of-system reforms that enable successful ageing without breaking budgets.

‘’The oldest of the baby boomers are now entering their eighth decade and in the next 12 years all of the baby boomer generation will be over 65. Further, their life expectancy at age 65 is now beyond 20 years and hence it is until at least 2045 where we’ll really face the challenge of ageing baby boomers,” Professor Eckermann said.

Contrary to popular wisdom, productivity commission research shows that ageing until relatively recently has not been a primary cause of increases in health expenditure.

However, the protection that increasing life expectancy has provided against the cost of ageing won’t last as mortality rates have not fallen significantly for populations over 80 – the baby boomers will not live forever.

Maintaining current policies Australian health expenditure is projected to increase to at least 12 per cent of GDP by 2045, with half of that increase attributable to ageing, while aged care expenditure is projected to increase even more if ageing populations continue to be sent to nursing homes rather than successfully ageing in the community.

Prof Eckermann said the book combined internationally recognised best methods for joint research, reimbursement and regulatory decisions to enable better policy making with community net benefit as the central focus for research and service provision in practice.

He said a business-as-usual approach to ageing will not work with the looming ageing challenge and resource constraints.

‘’Now is the time to be having meaningful policy debates that lead to effective reforms.’’