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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3133

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (09:09): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill amends the Health Insurance Act 1973 to increase the general Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold and introduces a minor administrative change in seeking confirmation of family composition.

The Extended Medicare Safety Net provides individuals and families with an additional rebate for their-out-of hospital Medicare services once an annual threshold of out-of-pocket costs for out-of-hospital services is reached.

Out-of-hospital services include GP and specialist attendances and services provided in private clinics and private emergency departments.

Once the relevant annual threshold has been met, Medicare will pay for 80 per cent of any future out-of-pocket costs for Medicare eligible out-of-hospital services for the remainder of the calendar year.

There are two Extended Medicare Safety Net thresholds: the concessional (lower) threshold for Commonwealth concession card holders; and the general (upper) threshold for all other Australians. From 1 January 2006, the concessional threshold increased to $500 and the general threshold increased to $1,000. The thresholds are indexed to the consumer price index at the start of each calendar year. In 2014, the concessional threshold is $624.10 and the general threshold is $1,248.70.

As announced by the previous government in the 2013-14 budget, the general threshold of the Extended Medicare Safety Net will be increased to $2,000 from 1 January 2015. The concessional Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold will be indexed as usual and will not be impacted by this bill. This bill contributes to a more sustainable Medicare system.

These measures are a significant change to the Medicare system. It is important to note that they were a commitment taken by the previous government in their last budget. They will save $105.6 million and are included in the forward estimates, so the current government is compelled to implement this change. Because of the fiscal situation bequeathed by the former government we have no choice but to implement this change.

The other provision confirms family composition for the EMSN.

This improves the efficiency of government service delivery and the timeliness of payment of benefits to patients. This bill removes the requirement for the Chief Executive of Medicare to request the confirmation of family composition (for Extended Medicare Safety Net purposes) only in writing.

Currently, to ensure that the correct out-of-pocket costs have been attributed to the Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold, if a registered family is identified to be approaching the Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold and will soon be entitled to receive Extended Medicare Safety Net benefits, the Chief Executive of Medicare must, in writing, request confirmation of their family composition.

Receiving confirmation in writing increases the time families must wait to receive their Extended Medicare Safety Net benefits. This amendment allows the Chief Executive of Medicare to determine how they would like to contact a family to confirm their family composition to allow a more streamlined process and ensure faster payment to patients.

This bill will allow the government to responsibly manage expenditure on the Extended Medicare Safety Net and reduce the administrative burden on the Department of Human Services. This is important for supporting the sustainability of the Extended Medicare Safety Net while singles and families can continue to receive additional assistance with their out-of-pocket costs. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.