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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

The CHAIRMAN - Older! The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr REYNOLDS - 1 will try again. I want to ask the Minister in respect of the payment of $2 for patients in hospitals where no charge is made, whether that means that where charges are made and where the person is not insured the $2 will not be paid. That is the way 1 understand it. 1 would like to have the Minister's confirmation of that if it is so. If a State government as in Queensland provides free public ward hospitalisation then the Commonwealth will pay $2 but in another State where no such benefit is made and where the patient has to pay, will he not receive the $2 Commonwealth benefit in those circumstances? I am wondering what is the logic of this. Is it just a political decision because the Labor Party raised the issue last year that Queensland was being deprived of a substantial sum of money because the Commonwealth was not paying $2 for its patients? Is that the reason why this decision is being made?

I am reminded that even in respect of what are called nursing homes patients receive S2 a day without insurance and without a means test, but if they go into the public ward of, say, St George Hospital in my electorate and they have not insured themselves - maybe they have not been able to afford it - they do not get the S2 a day. What is the logic of this?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why is it S5 a day in respect of pensioners and only $2 a day for ordinary patients in public hospitals?

Mr REYNOLDS - 1 am asked by my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), why it is S5 a day in respect of pensioners but $2 a day for ordinary patients in such a public hospital. I want to know the Minister's line of thought as to why this provision has come about. One of the results of it is that by the Commonwealth's default in not paying a contribution to pensioners who are not insured the Stale Government is left to carry the whole burden. Most people are aware of the escalating pile of debts of State hospital authorities. At least until now the Commonwealth has paid 80c a day. Of course the cost of hospital upkeep might be anything up to $20 a day. The Commonwealth pays 80c a day for hospitalisation of a non-insured patient in all States except Queensland. The State Government has to bear the burden. All those patients in State hospitals have to pay so much extra to defray the bad debts of those who are not able to pay or who do not pay.

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