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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2875


Senator TOWNLEY(10.32) —I wish to speak for a few moments on a matter concerning Medicare. It was brought to my attention once before by a lady who lives in Tasmania. She has again written to me concerning the subject of the gap between fees charged by doctors and the refund received from Medicare or some other medical benefits fund. The point is that once again she is complaining about not being able to insure for the gap between the refund received from a medical benefits fund or Medicare and what the doctor charges. This lady, who is a pensioner is in no way criticising the doctor. She realises that doctors are entitled to charge what they need to run their practice. She recognises too that at a time when costs are rising in every other area she should not expect to receive charity-as she puts it-from her doctor. She again takes up the issue with Dr Blewett who, when Medicare was introduced, indicated that no person would be disadvantaged under the scheme. Quite clearly this lady is disadvantaged and has been. Yet she wishes to keep going to her doctor. The matter I have briefly touched on is very well covered in the letter that she sent me. To save the time of the Senate I seek leave to have that letter incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

10th Floor A.M.P. Building

86 Collins Street

Hobart, Tasmania 7000

Dear Senator Townley, Further to my correspondence re Medicare on the subject of ''the gap'' between fees charged and refund received.

Due to complications arising from my wrist fracture it was necessary for me to visit my orthopaedic surgeon who is familiar with my health condition. I have had sympathetic dystrophy over the past 5 years or so, and it is therefore most important that I am referred to my own specialist. As he does not usually bulk- bill I paid the initial account, expecting to be refunded as previously. But '' the gap'' was $12 and being a holder of a P.H.B. card I queried the refund, and was told to explain my circumstances to my specialist.

This brings us back to the promise of Dr Blewett when Medicare was introduced that no person would be disadvantaged under the scheme. Despite being in Medical Benefits and a pensioner I am committed to pay ''the gap'', unless I seek '' charity'' from my specialist, who would then feel obliged to accept a decrease in his fee from me and all his pensioner patients. This at a time when costs are rising in the medical field, and high wages being demanded by all and sundry. It appears that I will have no alternative but to keep on paying the excess from my pension, as like other pensioners in Tasmania we cannot accept that we must ask to get treatment on the cheap.

We are quite prepared to insure for ''the gap'' but as you know this is not permitted by the Federal Government. Hoping you will be able to inform the Minister of Health, Dr Blewett, of the facts mentioned although he appears adamant that his scheme is the best for all.

Thanking you,