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Democrats keep Government accountable for health insurance premium increases.

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Senator Meg Lees

Australian Democrats

Parliamentary Leader


24 March 1999



Democrats keep Government accountable for health insurance premium increases.


The Australian Democrats successfully moved in the Senate today to ensure tha t the Government maintains responsibility for future private health insurance premium increases.


Currently, the Minister has the power to disallow any premium increase requested by the health funds. Provisions contained in Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No 2,) debated in the Senate today, would have enabled the Government to relinquish responsibility for approving premium increases.


“Thanks to the Democrats, the Government will not be able to walk away from its responsibility to monitor premium increases” said Senator Meg Lees, Leader of the Democrats and health spokesperson.


The Democrats’ amendment, supported by the Opposition, the Greens and Senator Harradine, leaves responsibility for the monitoring of premium increases with the Government.


“Following the extraordinary legislation introduced by the Government last year, which involves Australian taxpayers funding the private health insurance industry to the tune of $1.6 billion per year, we believe that the Minister has an obligation to the public to oversee the private health insurance industry and approve all premium increases,” said Senator Lees.


“It’s clear that the Government was trying to absolve itself of the responsibility for health insurance premium increases and you really have to have ask why.


“When this Government gave the private health insurance industry a $1.6 billion per year hand-out, it did so on the basis that the 30% rebate would address the problems of rising health insurance premiums and falling membership.


“If the Government’s 30% rebate scheme is so successful, if membership is on the rise, if the viability of the health insurance has turned the corner, why is the Government so concerned to distance itself from future rate rises?” she said.


“Perhaps the Government’s 30% rebate scheme is not going as well as it should and therefore future health insurance premium rises are on the cards.


“The only way the protect health fund members from huge premium rises is for the health funds to remain accountable to the Government. The Democrat amendment will ensure just that,” said Senator Lees.


for further comment: John Schumann 0419 867876 Senator Meg Lees 02 6277 3991