Brains fight for fund, even without co-payment
A lobby representing Australia’s medical research sector says it wants to see the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) kept alive.
The MRFF Action Group has been formed to give a voice to Australia’s medical researchers on the potentially ground-breaking benefits the MRFF could bring.
In its proposed form, the MRFF will build to a $20 billion perpetual fund, providing annual disbursements of $1 billion by 2022-23.
The Action Group says the MRFF will have a transformational impact on long-term future health and medical research in Australia and, through this, the efficiency and effectiveness of the Australian health system.
But the fund is to be filled with money from a proposed $7 GP co-payment scheme, which has been off the political radar in recent weeks due to broad public backlash.
Medical Research Future Fund Action Group chairperson Peter Scott has told the ABC that the fund itself is more important than the source of its money.
“The co-payment has taken a lot of oxygen, a lot of attention away from that,” Mr Scott said.
“It's certainly prolonged the discussions at a political level but we remain fixed in our view in advocating that the MRFF really should be done.
“If it's not funded by a co-payment it should be funded by another means.”
His view is backed by some of the top figures in the Australian research community.
Professor Christine Bennett, Chair of Research Australia, said: “The MRFF will more than double government spending on medical research. It will give Australia a perpetual funding body for medical research with the scope and impact of the Wellcome Trust in the UK and the Howard Hughes Institute in the US. The MRFF will make Australia a global centre for lifesaving research for generations.”
“We know that most Australians support additional medical research expenditure. There is multiparty support for existing medical research funding and the MRFF guarantees we can build on this solid foundation to ensure we reap the rewards in terms of Australia’s future health and wealth.”
Professor Bruce Robinson, Chair of the Group of Eight Deans of Medicine Committee, said: "The MRFF will provide a sustainable future for Australia’s talented young medical researchers who underpin Australia’s superb medical research skills."
"The MRFF will help drive the efficiency, effectiveness and long-term sustainability of our health system. Medical research is an integral part of a high quality health system – they are inseparable. It is not coincidental that Australia has one of the best health systems in the world. Medical research has underpinned it and the potential to do much more is truly exciting."
Despite talk around the co-payment appearing to wane in recent weeks, Prime Minister Tony Abbott did say “there should be price signals in the system... we think that's good policy”, when asked about it in Question Time last week.
The co-payment was a hot topic for debate on the day Speaker Bronwyn Bishop ejected a record 18 Labor MPs from Parliament.