Health policy consistently ranks within the top three policy issues important to older Australians. We recognise that while many health services are the operational responsibility of state and territory governments (such as hospitals and community health services, although part funded by the Commonwealth), other health services have become the funding and program responsibility of the Australian Government. COTA Australia works across a range of these national health policy areas such as private health insurance, dental and oral health, adult immunisation and mental health services along with areas of joint responsibility such as healthy ageing.
COTA Australia works with media and government to combat the prejudicial assumption that poor mental health is part of the normal ageing process. In 2017 COTA Australia launched a campaign to remove the barriers to older Australians in residential aged care facilities from accessing mental health services – view our campaign here.
Along with our state and territory member organisations, we believe in the investment of health promotion and preventative measures to improve healthy ageing. This may include working on the cause of chronic diseases including a program of active ageing activities to decrease risk factors and protect against functional decline. Investment in healthy ageing activities reduce the demand on health services and increase the independence, dignity and participation of older Australians in society.
Since the abolition of the federal oral health program in 1996 a great many older people, especially those on low-incomes, are missing out on dental care, with public dental hospitals waitlists longer than 12 months. COTA will continue to advocate for a universal oral and dental health scheme including oral health awareness, preventative health measures and dental treatments that are delivered in a timely manner.
Over 50% of people over 65 retain private health insurance, despite much lower incomes and greater difficulty meeting premium payments after retirement. According to the 2014 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey 71.4% of couples where both partners are over 60 had some form of private health insurance.