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Barnett cautions Medicare Action Group: don't be used.

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Barnett Cautions Medicare Action Group - Don't Be Used

Monday, 17 November 2003

Senator Guy Barnett has cautioned a new lobby group called the Tasmanian Medicare Action Group about being used in Labor’s national scare campaign on health.

“It is the democratic right of anyone and any group in the community to question and scrutinise Government policy, but I caution independent organisations which are concerned about health care, to ensure they are not being used as pawns in Labor’s Medicare scare campaign,” Senator Barnett said.

He also rejected newspaper claims that bulk billing rates in Northern Tasmania have fallen by 45 per cent since March.

“Bulk billing rates are unacceptably low and Health Minister Tony Abbott is working to remedy the decline, but the rates have definitely not fallen by 45 per cent since March.

“In fact between the March and June quarters bulk billing rates in Northern Tasmania actually increased by more than 4000 services,” Senator Barnett said.

He called on Bass Labor MHR Michelle O’Byrne to publicly correct the newspaper error in reporting of her media statement of November 6.

“Ms O’Byrne should have corrected the error by now, and until she does her credibility on the Medicare debate is zero. By all means debate the issue, but stick to the facts,” Senator Barnett said.

He accused the Labor Party of engaging in a cheap and misleading scare campaign over bulk billing rates.

He said the Government was working hard to lift the rates, but the way to achieve this was through more doctors and accessibility to doctors.

“More doctors, especially in regional and rural areas, will lead to greater competition, and bulk billing rates will rise. The Howard Government has measures in place to boost doctor numbers,” Senator Barnett said.

He said Labor claims it wants to increase the Medicare rebate, but already has bad form in this area.

“In the six years to 1996 the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments increased the Medicare rebate by 9% - In the past six years the Howard Government have lifted this rebate by 20%, and maintained the 30% private health insurance rebate as well,” Senator Barnett said.

“Labor wants to set a lower target level of bulk billing in regional and country areas, which would treat people in these areas as second class citizens,” he said.

As well, a Labor government would scrap the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, forcing Tasmanians to lose $750 or more which the insurance rebate saves them each year.