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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 31020

Mr GRIFFIN (6:43 PM) —I rise on the question of detail in respect to health and ageing to raise with the minister a number of cases that have been brought to my attention. Some of them she may have some difficulty in answering on the spot and I am happy if she comes back to us at a later date, if that could be done. But what I will do now, in order to help move proceedings along, is read out the examples. If she would be kind enough to comment at the end of that I would appreciate it. That might help me move along at a faster rate than if we were jumping up and down on half-a-dozen occasions.

I am reading explicitly from communications that have been received, so I will go to that now and apologise in advance for some of the grammar. In some cases anyway it may well be me. This is the first case:

My partner has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. I was sitting in a waiting room of a private suite. Before us, a couple came out of the consulting room looking obviously very alarmed by the news just received. The doctor came out and asked his secretary to organise an intervention for the next morning at 6.30 a.m. As discussion progressed, the patient is asked directly to pay $10,000 in cash or bank cheque. There was no access to credit, EFTPOS or personal cheque accepted for payment by the hospital, who would not accept the patient before cash payment was made. The doctor forwarded a personal cheque for the hospital and the couple gave a personal cheque to the doctor in return.

(Extension of time granted)

That is one case, which I would like the minister's comment on if she is able to.

The second case reads:

Following up for a constituent has revealed that, if families are electing to receive their FTB part A as a lump sum, they will not be entitled to receive the increased benefits of the new safety net until next year. Is this something that you were aware of? This is info provided by the Brisbane office and they were struggling with it all, but thought I would pass it on anyway. Further inquiries on behalf of the constituent also revealed that, even though she had changed her FTB part A over to fortnightly payments, thereby risking a debt, and produced a letter from Centrelink confirming the changeover, Medicare could not act to allow the increased benefits until their system was updated, which could take a couple of weeks.

The third case reads:

She has a 16-year-old son who no longer goes to school and is not studying, therefore ineligible for youth allowance. He has no income whatsoever. When his mother went into Medicare to register the family for the safety net, she was informed that because her son is 16 he does not qualify as part of the family for this new system. He is on her Medicare card and she pays all of his expenses, medical and otherwise. My husband is pretty sure that he heard her say something about a person needing to be 18 before qualifying as a single person for the safety net, which of course means that those people aged between 16 and 18 fall into a black hole.

The fourth case reads:

I am a 76-year-old widow pensioner, and I have just received the booklet from the Prime Minister with regard to the Medicare safety net for pensioners and I would like to query this with my recent experience with Medicare. On 2 March I had two basal cell cancers removed from my face by a plastic surgeon. I was charged $300 over and above the scheduled fee. I contacted Medicare with regard to this being now my safety net, but as there was no item number quoted on the receipt I was informed that I would need to get the plastic surgeon to give it a number. On inquiring from the plastic surgeon, I was informed this charge was for the use of his operating room and therefore not applicable.

The fifth case reads:

I went to Medicare on Thursday to collect payment from a doctors visit. Whilst there, they registered me for the safety net and then told me that we as a family had passed the $300 out-of-pocket expenses. They informed me that they would not be able to start paying me the 80 per cent gap payments until I supplied them with either receipts or statements from the doctors/specialists of the payments we have made. I found this interesting, because they already have all the details, we have been reimbursed and they keep all the receipts. So we have to approach all doctors, specialists, radiographers et cetera et cetera we have seen. They stated that they would send us a letter outlining all that we needed to do to get the 80 per cent gap payments. This would be difficult for those that are very sick and frail, and I believe that this process is set up to deter people from claiming the 80 per cent gap payment that they are supposed to be entitled to.

I have another two questions, and again I apologise for the sketchy nature of the information. One is a suggestion that a constituent rang the hotline and was told that there is no need to register to be eligible for benefits. I would like to get a comment on that. The last point I would like to raise is: can the Minister for Ageing inform us as to what, if any, advice has gone out from the minister or the department to help individual MPs with questions about the safety net?