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NSW sets high standard of debate for Medicare inquiry.

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Senator Lyn Allison

Australian Democrats

Health and Ageing Spokesperson 21 July 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/522

NSW sets high standard of debate for Medicare inquiry Medicare submissions received from health groups in NSW challenge the Government’s package and will be a good start to the Democrat-initiated inquiry hearings. A national program of public hearings starts on Tuesday in Sydney and Newcastle on Wednesday. Democrats’ Health spokesperson and inquiry member, Senator Lyn Allison, said NSW groups suggest redirecting the Private Health Insurance Rebate, increasing incentives to GPs who bulk bill everyone, and extending Medicare to Dental services. “Opposition to Government plans to change Medicare and limit bulk billing is so far universal. The Democrats will be keen to explore constructive alternatives that solve the current decline in affordable access to GPs whilst preserving Medicare’s important principles and features,” Senator Allison said. NSW groups have sent in more than 30 submissions containing a range of perspectives. A submission from the Alliance of NSW Divisions of General Practice has slammed the Government’s proposed incentives for GPs to bulk bill pensioners and Health Care Card holders as unacceptable: What you need to appreciate is that this will not stop the deterioration and potential disintegration of Medicare in Australia. It will not improve patient access to primary and secondary health care. The aspect of the package, allowing co-payment at point of service, has prompted a warning from the Doctors Reform Society, Dr Tim Woodruff: Allowing co-payments at the point of service is convenient for the doctor. That is the danger. It is also convenient for the patient not to have to take the bill to Medicare and get the refund. But, for the patient, this is a short term benefit. In the long term, the co-payment will rise and patients will be worse off. And the plan to let patients privately insure for GPs ‘gap’ fees where the annual bill exceeds $1000 will be a disaster according to Dr Woodruff: Why introduce a second less equitable insurance policy instead of simply expanding the first equitable, and vastly more efficient Medicare? Contact: John Derry 0408 056 167