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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 844


Mr SPENDER(1.28 a.m.) —I would like to ask the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) one or two questions about the rationale for clause 57. In his second reading speech the Minister made it perfectly plain that he was supporting and promoting very directly the concept of bulk billing. Bulk billing , of course, means that doctors will charge 85 per cent of the schedule fee. The Minister gave an explanation in regard to abolishing what was called gap insurance. Of course, gap insurance falls squarely within the clauses we are now looking at. The Minister referred to the Jamison Committee of Inquiry into the Efficiency and Administration of Hospitals. In his second reading speech he said :

In line with the recommendations of the 1980 Jamison Commission of Inquiry . . . appointed by the previous Government we will be legislating to prevent both private health funds and general insurers from offering cover for the 'gap' between the Medicare benefit and the schedule fee. The reason for this is quite simple and practical. As the AMA stated in evidence to the Jamison Inquiry:

Doctors generally believe that there should be a charge at the point of service .

I pointed out in my speech during the second reading debate that if the Minister is successful in getting doctors to bulk bill there will not be any charge at the point of service. Is not the intent to get bulk billing quite inconsistent with the rationale that was put forward in the Minister's second reading speech in regard to clause 57 where the Minister said that if people took out insurance they would be no better off? Does the Minister not overlook the fact that insurance can be obtained on a variety of terms, and one of the terms could very well be that the premium one would pay would be very much less than what one would otherwise have to pay out to one's doctor?

Why is it that people are not to be allowed to insure, if they want to, against the contingency of having to meet payments which will not be met under the scheme? I would be indebted to the Minister if he could answer those questions.