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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) . - There are some instances where that might happen, but many funds in any case would not pay the difference, so that really the point does not arise.

Mr Griffiths - Did not the Commonwealth stop that about two years ago?

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The funds themselves stopped it. A lot of the funds stopped this practice of what has been called, in the vernacular, making a profit out of being in hospital. They would not allow it to occur.

The other point which the honorable gentleman raised was the question of the pensioner. He asked whether it was an advantage for a pensioner to belong, first, to a medical benefits fund, and, secondly, to a hospital benefits fund. Normally, a pensioner would belong to neither. He would come under the pensioner medical service, and would receive what virtually amounts to general practitioner service free of cost. If he goes into a hospital it will depend on the State government whether or not he is charged. Most of the State governments do not charge; some do. If he wishes to enter a private hospital, as many pensioners do, or an intermediate ward, it would, of course, be of advantage to him to be a member of a fund. If he wished to consult a specialist or a surgeon or either needs or wishes to have special surgical procedures, or private medical treatment, it would also be to his advantage to be in a fund. So, it is largely a matter of voluntary insurance, and the pensioner can place himself in the same position as the rest of the population, with advantage to himself. Perhaps it could be better put the other way - that there are far fewer disadvantages for a pensioner in not belonging to a fund than there are for other people in not belonging to a fund.

The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) is correct. There are two rates of Commonwealth additional benefit - 4s. a day and 12s. a day. A person who does not subscribe for the 12s. rate does not get it. The majority of people subscribe for this rate, and receive it.

Mr Wilson - Could the Minister be asked, Mr. Chairman, to speak a little louder. We cannot hear him in the back benches.

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