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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19778


Ms WORTH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:59 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill proposes amendments concerning two issues within the Health portfolio.

Firstly, the bill proposes to amend the Health and Other Services (Compensation) and (Care Charges) Acts 1995. The acts were made to ensure that successful claimants for compensation cannot double dip by obtaining dual payments for their medical expenses. When plaintiffs go to court to recover damages for personal injuries, the legislation requires that they repay to the Commonwealth the cost of any Medicare and residential care benefits received because of the injury for which they have been compensated as part of the compensation settlement or payment.

The proposed amendments arose from a ruling by the Federal Court exempting payments for compensation that are not fixed or ascertainable at the time of a judgment or settlement. The bill will eliminate any doubt as to the amount of compensation being fixed, either at the time of the judgment or settlement or at a later time period where it is ascertainable or fixed after the judgment or settlement. This bill has no retrospective effect and does not effect judgments or settlements that are made before the commencement of these amendments.

This bill ensures that the payments of moneys rightfully owed to the Commonwealth are fully enforceable, and thereby end the ability to double dip by claiming Medicare and also retaining the compensation part of the settlement for the same medical or residential care expenses.

Secondly, the bill will amend the Health Insurance Act 1973, in relation to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register.

The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register is a national database maintained by the Health Insurance Commission, which contains information on the immunisation status of children under the age of seven in Australia. Using the register, the Health Insurance Commission is able to report on immunisation given to children, and to assist health professionals by identifying areas of low immunisation coverage in the event of disease outbreak.

The amendments will expand the register, so that it also includes previous foreign immunisation encounters of children where these are notified to the Health Insurance Commission by recognised immunisation providers or prescribed bodies. This expansion will mean that the register contains a complete immunisation record for more children, and national immunisation coverage rates will be able to be reported more accurately. The change will also assist those parents claiming the Commonwealth's child-care benefit, where their children have been immunised overseas.

This expansion of the register is supported by the National Immunisation Committee and the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register Management Committee. I present a signed explanatory memorandum to the Main Committee.