Funding what matters

Tiny red ball pushes giant blue ball up a hill.

Funding what matters

Tiny red ball pushes giant blue ball up a hill.

Australians deserve access to funded physiotherapy at the top of physiotherapists’ scope of practice, argues APA General Manager, Policy and Government Relations Simon Tatz.

Every year, the federal government calls for submissions on Budget priorities. 

In the APA’s 2024–25 pre-Budget submission, our message to government is that 2024 marks the 40th anniversary year of Medicare and it must use this milestone to strengthen Medicare, fund what matters and ensure that Australians have access to funded physiotherapy, with physiotherapists working at the top of their scope of practice. 

The rationale for reform is obvious. 

Musculoskeletal conditions account for 12.8 per cent of the total disease burden and are the second leading contributor to the total disease burden after cancer. 

Consistent underfunding, along with a rapidly increasing disease and injury rate, means that it’s getting more expensive and harder to access affordable healthcare. 

For the more than 11 million Australians who live with one or more chronic health conditions, accessing a physiotherapist, either directly or through team-based primary healthcare, is absolutely critical.

Strengthening Medicare: funding what matters focuses on five critical areas:

  • empowering patients and integrating care
  • prioritising the full recovery journey by funding birth trauma prevention and treatment, non-operative pathways, prehabilitation and recovery from common musculoskeletal injuries
  • prioritising prevention and early intervention for falls, pain strategies and pulmonary rehabilitation
  • providing better care and outcomes for people in rural areas, people in aged care, those living with disability and members of First Nations and/or veteran communities
  • futureproofing our health system amid climate change and securing the next generation of physiotherapists.

APA submissions always present solutions—strategic approaches that improve patients’ quality of life, provide cost savings and advance the profession. 

For example, we set out the case to lift the barriers to direct referrals and for greater investment in publicly funded physiotherapy to drive better, more connected and more integrated care.

We also detail the case for digital health solutions that can improve patient care today, ensuring continuity of care and the essential role of the GP. 

We call for reforms to direct non-operative injury and prehabilitation pathways to reduce surgical intervention rates.

One of the keys to strengthening Medicare is ensuring that every patient is on the pathway best suited to them. 

Funding direct non-operative injury and prehabilitation pathways to reduce surgical intervention rates is key to this aim. 

We want to reduce patient barriers to rehabilitation, which is important for achieving a good surgical outcome and reducing surgical interventions.

In the submission, we call for funded measures to prevent physical birth trauma by providing expert pelvic health physiotherapy care during pregnancy and postpartum. 

Policy inaction is leading to costly incontinence treatments including surgery and, in many cases, repeat surgeries.

Continuing our focus on reforms that keep people well and out of hospital and that prevent unnecessary hospitalisation, we identify ways to prioritise physiotherapy-led preventive services. 

We ask for funded programs across falls prevention, early intervention for patients at risk of persistent pain and pulmonary rehabilitation.

We ask the government to remove barriers that block access to efficient and cost-effective physiotherapy for people most in need and to strengthen healthcare access for rural Australians, which requires investment to build the necessary teams and incentives for physiotherapy.

The government must prioritise population groups that experience the most inequity. 

Reform must focus on securing a better future for First Nations peoples and enabling health access for rural Australians. 

Our care priorities must also extend to securing the NDIS to support Australians with disability, funding for better aged care and support for our veterans.

A major focus in the submission is getting physiotherapy into position ‘for tomorrow’ by outlining ways to futureproof the healthcare system. 

Enacting real reform here largely depends on the strength of Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler’s Strengthening Medicare reforms in 2024. 

Fully implementing the recommendations proposed in the APA’s submission is the clearest path to strengthening Medicare’s ability to reduce significant barriers to affordable and accessible healthcare for patients.


© Copyright 2024 by Australian Physiotherapy Association. All rights reserved.