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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) . - On the Minister's statement it appears that a man or women aged 65 or over may be worse off under the special account provision than would have been the case if the special account procedure had not operated. If that is so, I think that that conflicts with an assurance given by the Minister when the previous amending bill was before the Parliament. At that time I moved an amendment on behalf of the Labour Party designed to protect the rights of people over the age of 65 who wished to continue to receive the higher rates of benefit for which they had been subscribing. I withdrew that amendment on receipt of an assurance from the Minister that the formula he proposed would be a better one, and would meet exactly the position we had in mind. However, on the Minister's statement now, it appears that if the special account had not existed a man over 65 years of age subscribing for benefit at a. high rate, treated in a public ward of a hospital for eight or ten weeks, would have received a cash benefit - the difference between the amount for which he had subscribed and the actual amount of the hospital bill. If the special account did not exist he would be in the same position as the man under 60, in that he would receive the total amount of benefit for which he subscribed. If he were treated in a public ward and had subscribed for the higher rate of benefit he would receive the difference in cash. As the Minister now explains it, in order to protect the public purse a man, although he might wish to preserve all his rights under the higher rate of benefit, would be compulsorily transferred to special account when he reached the age of 65. It might not be possible for him to get accommodation in a private or intermediate ward, so he would have to go into a public ward. Yet, although he had paid for benefit at a higher rate he would not receive the cash difference between the cost of his accommodation in a public ward and the full benefit for which he is insured. If so, that man is worse off than if the special account had not existed.

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