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Table Of Contents
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- Start of Business
- CHILD SUPPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1994
HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) BILL 1994
HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) CARE CHARGES BILL 1994
HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) ADMINISTRATION FEE BILL 1994
HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1994
- HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) CARE CHARGES BILL 1994
- HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) ADMINISTRATION FEE BILL 1994
- HEALTH AND OTHER SERVICES (COMPENSATION) (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1994
- CHILD SUPPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1994
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- ASSENT TO BILLS
- Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
- Electoral System
- Brain Injury: Rehabilitation
- Drought: Women
- Australia Remembers
- Australian National Rail Yards: Site Contamination
- Road Transport Authority
- Farmers: Drought Assistance
- Kennett Government
- Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport
- Member for Wills
- University of Wollongong: Retirement of Vice-Chancellor
- Australian Beef Industry
- Parliament: Conduct of Members
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- EMPLOYMENT SERVICES (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1994
- STUDENT ASSISTANCE (YOUTH TRAINING ALLOWANCE) AMENDMENT BILL 1994
- STUDENT ASSISTANCE (YOUTH TRAINING ALLOWANCE—TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS AND CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1994
Friday, 9 December 1994
Mr FORREST (11.15 a.m.) —The Health and Other Services (Compensation) Bill and related bills obviously address a very serious issue. The matter of double dipping costs the government and taxpayers, so it is right that the general drift of what is being presented to the House receives my support. The problems are apparently quite widespread. A review in 1992 revealed this quite clearly. Again, it has taken all this time to get some correcting legislation to the House. That is disappointing.
The bills attempt, by my understanding, to address the issue by the development of improved systems to identify compensation claimants firstly and then to provide some teeth in recovery mechanisms of moneys that should rightly be directed to health, particularly to Medicare, thus saving the government an estimated $40 million or $50 million per year. Apparently there is also something like 73,000 compensation cases of this nature every year. Obviously it is going to be a massive task and again it requires the establishment of a large bureaucracy for its administration. This leads me and my coalition colleagues to the very first problem of this bill—it has already been addressed—that is, the cost has to be passed on.
It is also disturbing to me to see the complete lack of consultation with the major players in this particular area, most particularly those insurers who are going to be required under this legislation to pick up the tab. Time and time again in this House—and I realise I have only been here a short time—this government seems to ignore the fact that it does not legislate in a vacuum. It does not have a charter to legislate without proper consultation, particularly with the people that the legislation will directly affect.
The Child Support Agency is an example of this. There are many others. The superannuation guarantee charge is another example where a huge monster is created, the mechanisms are not properly considered and no study is previously initiated to find out what the impact of such legislation will be. The superannuation guarantee charge has collected in its huge net such people as itinerant seasonal workers, whom I do not believe it was intended to collect. I remember in my first few months in this House asking the then Treasurer whether he could tell me how many such accounts for itinerant workers exist across Australia. He could not tell me.
Subsequently, it was revealed that there was between one million and two million of these accounts, with less than $100 in them being consumed by the management fees of insurance companies. I just use that as another example of legislation that was hastily brought to the House without proper consideration that then became a problem for the community. Enormous paperwork is involved to discover very little benefit at the end of the day for a small segment of the community.
This legislation has the same ingredients all over again. The government does not seem to learn. I am also concerned after being made aware that the major players received the brief of this legislation only a matter of days before it was introduced into the House. This is simply not good enough. The community out there, and particularly the major players who are affected by the legislation, deserve the right to be properly consulted, properly briefed and have their concerns heard—even though the government might ultimately ignore their concerns. But, in this case, those people have not even had an opportunity to air those concerns.
It seems completely unfair to me that, with the way this legislation will work, an administrative fee will have to be charged. That total is still only estimated as being $10 million a year. It will not surprise me in the least if, once this monster gets under way, just like many other monsters we have seen which have been generated from this place, the matter worsens.
I understand from the legislation that the fee to be charged for claims finalised within five years of the date of injury will be $150; for those claims settled five years after the date of injury, it will be around about $300. There is absolutely no doubt that these charges will subsequently have an impact on the premiums charged by insurance companies for coverage by their disability insurance—absolutely no doubt at all. Yet we have not had presented to us in this House for any consideration at all any kind of impact statement that has at least some sort of assessment of what that impact will be.
This is completely improper. I am certainly not happy with it. I stand with my other colleagues on this side of the House in opposing particularly that bill which imposes an administrative charge. It is obvious that, for every $4 recovered from individual compensation recipients, a further $1 will be charged as an administration fee. And even that is only a guesstimate, a best guess, without any rationale or considered committee work or consultation with the industry.
I am also concerned that, with the premiums for disability insurance—and I use as an example the pressure that is currently being applied to the health insurance industry itself which has been created by the dramatic exodus from private insurance companies which has occurred; over the last 12 months that exodus has numbered in the order of 300,000 Australian families—and with fewer participants in private health insurance, the pressure on premiums is immense and increasing. Over the last 10 years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of Australians who are prepared to fund their own health insurance. In February 1984, 59 per cent of the population maintained private health insurance. That has currently fallen to something like 34 or 35 per cent.
It is not just the fall in the number of people who are members of the private health insurance system but the changing profile of those who remain in it. Healthy people drop out because of the pressure of trying to maintain an ever increasing premium and so reduce the cross-subsidy that is available to compensate for that older group of Australians who probably use their health insurance more than the younger ones do. This is made starkly evident by looking at the number of people over the age of 65. In 1992-93, the number of people who were 65 years and over increased by 12,000 people just in 12 months to 844,000. The number of people who were younger than 65 fell by 208,000 down to 6,124,000. This puts pressure on premiums so that they rise, which results in a greater number of young people exiting private health insurance, so premiums rise even further.
I am particularly alarmed, as I represent a very depressed financial environment in a rural electorate, that those people from the farming community just have no capacity to maintain their private health insurance and are exiting it at an alarming rate. This represents an even worse problem. In small communities throughout my electorate, the hospital system has been created by bush nursing hospitals. These are not public hospitals, they are private hospitals, their status as such this Commonwealth government sees fit to maintain. People cannot get access to hospital care through a bush nursing hospital, unless they maintain their private health insurance. This is grossly inconsiderate, given the fact that these bush nursing hospitals have been placed in a community at no cost to government, no cost whatsoever out of community generated funds.
Mr O'Keefe —This is Christmas time; you don't really believe that.
Mr FORREST —I believe the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport is interjecting. I cannot see him clearly because of the colour of his tie.
Mr O'Keefe —I am the world's greatest living expert on bush nursing hospitals, and I will talk to you about that at any time.
Mr FORREST —Bush nursing hospitals, before admitting patients, require them to be members of a private health insurance fund. I think this is a situation which should be reviewed urgently by the minister responsible. I mention that because it is compounding now. Many people cannot maintain their health insurance because of the dire economic circumstances that they face.
Just to complete that point, it is interesting to note—and I know this from maintaining my own private health insurance—that, in the last 10 years, the private health insurance premium for my family has more than doubled. Looking at the statistics provided by the private health insurance council in its statistical supplement last year, in 1984-85 there were approximately $1.5 billion of premium contributions through private health insurance covering about 7.5 million people. For 1992-93 premium revenue was $4.1 billion covering 6.9 million people. It is very difficult to determine what escalation in average premium that represents. But in 1992-93 broadly it means that it costs in excess of about $500 per person to maintain private health insurance, whereas back in 1984 it was roughly $200 per person. So, in a family of four, like mine, to maintain private health insurance every year, that represents roughly about $2,000. This is an alarming problem, and I repeat the calls which have been made from this side of the House for the government to urgently address that issue.
I return to my point about the lack of consultation. This government seems to continue with its big stick in complete disregard for the community. From the amount of insurance industry representation that has been presented to the shadow minister for health, the honourable member for Mackellar, (Mrs Bishop), who is at the table, concern is evident about the likely impacts of this legislation. I think the government ought to consult more widely with the industry because, in effect, the impact will be direct on those persons whom the government purports to support—the subscribers to disability insurance, which affects every Australian. I urge the government to change its profile in the way it presents its legislation and consult much more widely with the Australian community.