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Coalition's community rating doublespeak



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THE HON MICHAEL LEE MP MEMBER FOR DOBELL SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH

NCOALITION'S COMMUNITY RATING DOUBLESPEAK Today's contradictory comments by the Prime Minister and his health minister show

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that the rift between Dr Wooldridge and Mr Howard is widening again - this time over community rating.

Before the election John Howard promised to retain community rating.

W Before the election Dr Wooldridge said:

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"I ioin the Leader of the Onnosition in restating ... the fundamental core commitments the Coalition has made....community rated private health insurance will also remain. These commitments are unambiguous and thev are unequivocal." (Press Release 30/1/96 - see attached)

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While Dr Wooldridge at least mouthed his continued support for community rating this morning, the Prime Minister could only manage:

"all I can say is that until further notice the current policy stands".

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The elderly and the sick can take little comfort from Dr Wooldridge's support for community rating because in the next breath he supported "no claim bonuses" for private health insurance.

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Community rating is about paying the same premium no matter how sick you are. For Dr Wooldridge to suggest a "no claim bonus" doesn't discriminate against the sick is ludicrous. Healthier people would pay lower premiums than people who needed medical treatment.

EWhile the Minister welcomes the Productivity Commission's proposed "benefits" for long term members of health funds, the draft report only offers penalties such as five year waiting periods for elderly people who apply to join a fund. A In March this year Dr Wooldridge said the problem with health policy in the Fraser year was that the then Prime Minister and Treasurer (John Howard) were making the decisions. s In August this year, the current Prime Minister (John Howard) and the Treasurer intervened when health fund premium increases undermined the value of the tax rebate. E John Howard stated this morning that he intended to take the Productivity Commission report with him for holiday reading. ·#* / *2-,Telephone (043) 34 34 66 ♦ F ax (043) 34 34 22

Dr Wooldridge's annoyance at the Prime Minister's continued meddling with health policy was apparent in his comment this morning that:

" I would rather keep the people who are involved in health trying to make the decisions, rather than handing it over to economists."

The private health insurance rebates which were the centrepiece of the Coalition's health policy have already unravelled in the face of recent premium increases.

Now the Government's own inquiry has criticised the efficiency of the rebates and Mr Howard's decision to take over the premium approvals process.

It is no surprise that the Government is in such a mess over a health policy it never really believed in.

The real concern for older, sicker and less well off Australians is that when the Coalition finally sorts itself out, it will use the Productivity Commission's report as an excuse to return to the health policies they really believe in and abandon Medicare and community rating.

19 December 1996

Further Information: Michael Lee (043) 343 422 018 482 820