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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23294


Mr CREAN (2:12 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. I refer to the Howard government's claims regarding its new HIC online system announced in its `MedicareMinus' policy—


The SPEAKER —I remind the Leader of the Opposition of my comment last week about that statement.


Mr CREAN —announced in its Medicare package. It said:

Patients will be able to have their Medicare rebate deposited into their bank account, removing the need to make a special trip to the Medicare office.

Minister, why should Australians believe this claim from you when around $100 million has already been spent on IT for the new system, including a bailout of nearly $7 million as recently as August this year, but so far only one per cent of doctors have signed up to the scheme?


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The government is always seeking to improve its IT, and the government is always seeking to improve general practitioners' and other doctors' use of IT. In fact, since 2000 the government has invested more than $400 million in trying to improve information systems, particularly information systems available to general practitioners. The reason HIC Online has not been taken up more widely until now is that until now there have been no specific incentives to take up HIC Online—and software providers have not been specifically encouraged to spread it. I am confident that as a result of the changes in the MedicarePlus package there will be a widespread take-up of HIC Online. I am also confident that, as a result of this, patients will be able to access their Medicare rebate direct from doctors' surgeries and there will be no further need to queue at the Medicare office.