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Holes in new Medicare safety net.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/319 TUESDAY 27 APRIL 2004 SENATOR LYN ALLISON AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HEALTH SPOKESPERSON HOLES IN NEW MEDICARE SAFETY NET The Australian Democrats today warned that cost blow-outs due to the design of the new MedicarePlus ‘safety net’ will likely be used by the Government to again push for private health insurance coverage of GP and out-of-hospital specialist fees. Specialists, whose charges are already responsible for two thirds of out-of-pocket expenses, are planning to push patients over the ‘safety net’ threshold by restructuring their fees so more can be claimed through Medicare. Senator Lyn Allison, Democrats spokesperson on health said, “Once the government finds it cannot afford its own MedicarePlus policy it will look for other ways of covering these out-of-pocket costs. “We warned the government that the open-ended ‘safety net’ would lead to cost blow-outs. All physicians need to do is load fees for their in-hospital procedures onto their consultations and the ‘safety net’ barrier is quickly cleared - from then on the taxpayer pays. These ‘uncapped fees’ will be unsustainable. “The Government must re-visit Schedule Fee rates and open talks with doctors with a view to having them stick to those fees so that patients are not out-of-pocket and fee rises are contained. Minister Abbott should also revisit incentives for bulk billing, linking them to a target of 80% of all consultations, and look to pay incentives for all consultations once the target is reached. “It would also be much more cost-effective for the government to fund specialists in hospital out-patients clinics, reversing the trend of state governments in withdrawing those services or not replacing specialists who leave. “The government has said it sees health as a market-place so it is no wonder doctors are re-organising to maximise their income and shift costs to the taxpayer - they are being encouraged to do so. MedicarePlus has not been thought through and needs urgent and immediate changes.” Media Contact - Brian Littlechild - 0408 056 167