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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 177

(Question No. 723)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 March 1984:

Is it the case that Medibank Private members who take a hospital insurance table and an extras insurance table are being charged twice for ambulance service cover; if so will the Minister for Health take steps to ensure that Medibank Private members are not charged twice for ambulance service cover.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The position is that all registered health benefits organisations operating in New South Wales are required, in pursuance of the New South Wales Health Insurance Levies Act 1982, to pay a levy at the rate of 64 cents per family membership and 32 cents per single membership a week to the State Government in respect of persons insured under the basic private table. This in turn entitles such contributors to free ambulance services. Uninsured persons wishing to be covered for ambulance services may contribute to the ambulance subscription scheme through one of the agents for the State Government.

To cater for persons in New South Wales who do not have basic hospital table private insurance, Medibank Private has included a benefit towards the cost of subscriptions to the ambulance scheme in its Special Extras Table and its Supercover Table. I understand that because the ambulance service is one of a number of services for which benefits are payable under such tables, the contribution rate components are very low. For example in the Supercover Table, which offers higher benefits than the Special Extras Table, the component is a mere 1.5 cents a week (78 cents a year) for family members. The rate is even lower in the Special Extras Table.

It is true, in a sense, that a person contributing to both the basic private table an one of the 'extras' tables is paying twice for ambulance services. However, it is the overall package of benefits in the tables that makes them attractive to contributors and viable for the fund to offer. Given the insignificant cost in relation to the 'extras' tables, coupled with the fact that the provision of benefits available under 'extras' tables is essentially a matter for individual funds to determine, it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in this matter.