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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) .- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) referred to medical benefits.

Mr Drummond - And to hospital benefits also.

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I understood the honorable member to speak about medical benefits. This clause does not deal with hospital benefits but, with your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, I shall refer to them because both the honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) have done so. Until the present amendment of the act, it was a requirement that where a fund had established a special account for medical benefits it had to transfer to that special account those contributors who reached the age of 65 years. That require ment is being repealed by the measure now before the committee, so that the problem to which the honorable member for New England has referred will not arise in the future.

In relation to hospital benefits, if a contributor has been transferred to the special account - it is compulsory now and will remain compulsory because in fact the organizations agreed that it should be done - and if he is admitted to hospital, he is entitled to receive from the fund the amount for which he has been contributing until he exhausts his maximum benefit period. The amount of the fund benefit then drops to the standard rate of 16s. a day and remains at that figure indefinitely. Prior to the establishment of the special accounts the contributor received nothing. I endeavoured to make this position clear during the second-reading debate, but apparently I did not do so. If he went into hospital for a pre-existing ailment he would have received, before the introduction of the special account procedure, no fund benefit for his period in hospital. He now receives such a benefit because he is in special account, the benefit being the standard rate of 16s. a day indefinitely.

Perhaps I omitted to explain, in winding up the second-reading debate - and if so I am sorry - that contributors to special accounts may not receive payments above the rate charged by the hospital.

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In respect of the first twelve weeks?

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Yes. They can receive the full rate they are insured for provided it does not exceed the hospital charge. The reason for that is that any deficit in a hospital fund special account has to be made up from public money. It was not considered proper, as I explained in the House before it passed that provision, that people should, as it were, be able to make a profit out of the taxpayer through being in hospital.

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