Budget key for MRFF

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One of many questions to be answered in the upcoming Budget could be the future direction of the Medical Research Future Fund.

The Fund, announced in the 2014-15 Budget as a $20 billion endowment to support Australian medical research, was funded from a range of health savings measures.

The measures included $1.3 billion from the PBS for higher patient contributions and $266.7 million for changes to the Medicare Safety Net - neither have secured parliamentary support and are expected to be scrapped in the upcoming Budget.

The implications for the MRFF remain unclear.

There is speculation health minister Greg Hunt could use the Budget to separately announce further increases in funding for medical research, which could cover the MRFF funding hole, government could extend the time taken to reach the $20 billion target, or it could even cap further contributions.

The MRFF was originally forecast to reach its $20 billion target in 2019-20. However, Treasury confirmed last year government's failure to secure parliamentary support for all of the 2014-15 health savings measures, including the PBS and Medicare safety net changes, will delay reaching the target by one year.

As of August last year, the Fund had reached $4.4 billion, and is expected to deliver around $800 million in disbursements over the next four years. Government has already announced the first spending under the MRFF - $250 million for a Biomedical Translation Fund to support mid-stage development.