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Medical research a big winner

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The Medical Research Future Fund will be the biggest of its kind in the world, worth $20 billion by 2020.

But Australians will be asked to pay for the multi-billion dollar initiative, through a $7 GP co-payment and more expensive medicines.

The government will start the research fund, a surprise announcement of the federal budget, with $1.1 billion from an existing health and hospital fund.

However, from July next year every $5 from the $7 co-payment will be directed to the fund.

It will also be topped up with $1.3 billion over four years in savings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, because most people will pay an additional $5 for medicines.

Changes to the national hospital agreement, and an end to national partnership agreements with the states on dental and preventative health, will pump a further $2.5 billion into the fund over the next four years.

Mr Hockey said the fund would start providing money to medical research from next year, and by 2022-23 would distribute about $1 billion a year.

It will amount to a doubling of the government’s direct funding to medical research.

It may be an Australian who discovers better treatments and even cures for dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease or cancer, the treasurer told parliament on Tuesday.

“This new and historic commitment in medical research may well save your life, or that of your parents, or your child.”

The research fund will also receive $1.7 billion over five years by pausing the indexation of non-GP Medicare rebates for two years, and by not indexing the income thresholds for the Private Health Insurance Rebate and the Medicare Levy Surcharge for three years.