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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1610

Mr SLIPPER (10:16 AM) —As we await the honourable member for Lindsay (Miss Jackie Kelly), I thought I would outline a couple of matters concerning the electronic lodgment of Medicare claims through medical practitioners' surgeries. There has been much speculation in the media, most of it misinformed, which suggests that the government, by closing certain Medicare offices, is determined to reduce the level of service to below that which was previously available.

The government, on the other hand, takes the view that one has to look at the closure of Medicare offices in conjunction with the additional opportunities for electronic lodgment through medical practitioners' surgeries. When one looks at the totality of the government's reforms, it is very obvious that the government is indeed providing an increased rather than a reduced service to patients.

In the future, right across the nation, doctors will be able to lodge the claims electronically directly from the surgeries. We get away from a situation where people who went to non-bulk-billing doctors had to pay the medical fee initially and then deal with one of the Medicare offices. The Medicare offices will remain in those areas where they are needed, but increasingly more people will access this new provision through medical practitioners' surgeries.

I was very pleased that in the electorate of Fisher we were able to retain the Medicare offices at Caloundra and Kingaroy. There was a community campaign which was successful because the Minister for Health and Family Services (Dr Wooldridge) and the government were convinced that Medicare offices in these areas were necessary. In other areas where the amount of work being processed by Medicare offices has diminished to a stage where the Medicare office is no longer financially viable, with this change we will still be able to provide good local service to people while obviating the need to have Medicare offices which are no longer financially viable. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be as pleased as I am to see the honourable member for Lindsay in the chamber and I will now defer to her.