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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1181

Medicare


Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (14:18): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. I refer to the Prime Minister, who, on the eve of the 2 July election, gave an absolute guarantee that nobody would pay more to see the doctor because of his Medicare rebate freeze. Why then does the Productivity Commission's new report show that out-of-pocket spending on health is growing four times faster than public funding for health?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:18): I thank the senator for his question. I note the Productivity Commission's reporting on this particular issue and I would say that GPs have always made their own decisions on who they bulk-bill and what they choose to charge their patients. That is absolutely clear: it is a matter for the GPs.

Under this government, spending on health is growing as the senator referred to in the question. We have Medicare spending going from $19.4 billion under Labor to $22.8 billion under this government. When it comes to bulk-billing rates, they have gone from 82.2 per cent under Labor to 85.4 per cent under the coalition government—increases. Actually, it is those on the other side in the Labor Party that have the poor health record. There is quite a long list, so I will just start with some of it. Labor cut a billion dollars from Medicare for dental and means-tested it. They cut $664 million from Medicare for GPs. They cut $500 million from Medicare for pathology. They cut $450 million from Medicare safety net protections. They cut $2.5 billion from pharmacy and medicines. They blocked access—it was the Labor Party that blocked access to life-saving medicines. They cut $4 billion from the private health insurance rebate for consumers and means-tested it. It is Labor that has a poor health record. The coalition has a strong record on health.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Chisholm, a supplementary question.



Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (14:20): Given the Prime Minister's 'absolute guarantee', why has the Wheelers Hill clinic been forced to introduce a new charge of $20 for pensioners to see a doctor when they were previously bulk-billed?

An opposition senator: Great question.


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:21): I will take the interjection from the other side that said, 'Great question'. It may have been a great question if the senator had been listening to my answer to the first question. I actually answered it in the first answer. The answer is that general practitioners have the responsibility, they have the decision-making ability, as to what they are going to charge their patients and who they are going to bulk-bill. So it is entirely a matter for the clinic that the senator refers to to make their own decisions.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Chisholm, a final supplementary question.



Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (14:21): Given the Prime Minister's absolute guarantee, why has Latitude 19 Health on Magnetic Island stopped bulk-billing general patients due to 'Medicare restrictions and cuts'? Why are regional Australians paying more for health under the Liberal-National coalition government?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:22): For the third time, I am happy to say this very, very slowly and very, very clearly so those opposite can perhaps follow the answer for the third time. Perhaps they could listen to the answer. They certainly do not listen to people in regional Australia. The answer is that those GPs in those clinics that the senator refers to make their own decisions about who they bulk-bill and about how much they are going to charge. I hope it has sunk in the third time.