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Thursday, 14 May 1970


Dr FORBES (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Health) - It has been made perfectly clear by the Government, commencing with the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister for the last election, that its new health benefits plan and the benefits proposed under it are related to the common fee principle - that is, the fees most commonly charged by doctors. Not only did the Prime Minister make that point; I made it, clearly, in my statement to the House on 4th March and in my second reading speech on the National Health Bill. The statement was specifically made that medical benefits would be established at a level which provided for a high level of contributor return and contributor satisfaction where the doctor charged the most common fee. I think it is perfectly clear that right from the beginning the Government has made this known, however it might have been interpreted elsewhere.

In answer to the second part of the honourable member's question, it is a fact that payment of benefits by the Government or the benefit organisations to provide for coverage against any amount that might be charged by individual doctors would be financially ruinous. This would be a quite impossible basis for a responsible government to adopt for a benefits system. 1 think it is also worthy of note that in my statement to the House on 4th March on this matter I made it perfectly clear that the success of our health benefits plan will very much depend on the cooperation of the medical profession in adhering to the list of most common fees. I have also said that I see no reason why this should not be done, because the most common fees on which the health benefits plan is based are, after all, the fees which doctors are most commonly charging at the present time. There is no reason why they should not continue to do so. In relation to the last part of the honourable gentleman's question, I point out that patients will indeed continue to have complete freedom in choosing their own doctor. This has always been and always will be a keystone in the Government's policy and its approach to health.







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