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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 98

(Question No. 580)

Mr Cameron asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 November 1993:

  Does Medicare provide rebates for paramedical services; if not, (a) why not and (b) will the Government consider allowing rebates.

Mr Howe —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

  (a) and (b) the current health insurance arrangements were basically designed to provide assistance to people who incur medical expenses in respect of clinically relevant professional services rendered by qualified medical practitioners.

  Medicare benefit coverage was extended to cover optometrists in view of the interchangeability of some services with those provided by ophthalmologists. Benefits are also available on a limited basis for some medical services of an oral surgical nature but not general dentistry. Medicare grants to all States make a contribution to the cost of some paramedical services provided in outpatient Departments.

  The question of extending Medicare benefits coverage to professional services provided by paramedical and other allied health care professionals has been considered on a number of occasions in the context of periodic reviews of the national health care system, including Medicare.

  However, due to economic constraints it has not been found possible to extend the Medicare fee-for-service arrangements. The Government has nevertheless provided access to services in other ways. For example, the new dental program is being funded via grants to the States.

  Nevertheless, this matter will be kept under review and considered by the Government in the light of future budgetary priorities and general economic circumstances.