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Medical benefit payments



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PRESS STATEMENT BY THE COMMONWE.ALTH MINISTER FOR HEALTH, SENATOR THE HON. HARRXE W. WADE

MEDICAL BENEFIT PAYMENTS '

The M in is te r f o r H e a lth , S e n a to r Wade, s a id to -d a y i t would be

n e c e s sa ry to have more c o n c re te a ssu ra n c e s re g a rd in g th e s t a b i l i t y o f

d o c to rs fe e s th a n were a t p r e s e n t a v a ila b le b e f o r e th e Commonwealth could

g iv e adequate c o n s id e ra tio n to th e p r a c t i c a b i l i t y of in c re a s in g m edical

b e n e f i t paym ents.

S e n a to r Wade was r e f e r r i n g to re q u e s ts by th e A u s tra lia n M edical

A s s o c ia tio n f o r th e rem oval o f what i t has d e s c rib e d as "anom alies" i n th e

c u rre n t Commonwealth m e d ic al b e n e f its s c h e d u le , and a r e p o r t t h a t th e

V o lu n tary H e a lth In su ra n c e C ouncil p ro p o se s a sk in g t h a t m ed ical b e n e f it

payments b e in c re a s e d to th e p o in t where th e y average 80 p e r c e n t, o f

d o c to r s ’ b i l l s .

S e n a to r Vfade r e c a l l e d t h a t e a r ly i n 1960 th e Commonwealth

in c r e a s e d b e n e f it paym ents on some 140 m ajor m e d ic al p ro c e d u re s , w ith th e

r e s u l t t h a t th e combined Ccamonwealth and Fund b e n e f i t a v a ila b le on th e

most exp en siv e ite m s was in c re a s e d from £30 to £60. T his c o s t th e

Commonwealth about £500 ,0 0 0 a y e a r and th e insm 'ance fu n d s £750,000. The

in c re a s e d payment b y th e fu n d s in v o lv e d m a rrie d c o n tr ib u to r s i n an in c r e a s e

i n t h e i r payments o f up to 1 / - a week, .

The r e s u l t a n t in c r e a s e i n th e p e rc e n ta g e o f d o c to r s ’ acco u n ts

met by th e in s u ra n c e schema, how ever, was no more th a n tem porary.

"Now", s a id S e n a to r Wade "th e Commonwealth i s b e in g asked to

make much g r e a t e r in c r e a s e s , w hich must in v o lv e th e ta x p a y e r i n an o u tla y

o f some m illio n s o f pounds a y e a r , and w i l l i n a d d itio n alm o st c e r t a i n l y

r e q u ir e a s u b s t a n t i a l in c r e a s e i n th e w eekly payments made by m ed ical

in su ra n c e fund c o n tr ib u to r s .

" I do n o t f e e l t h a t th e Government can l i g h t l y embark on such

an o u tla y i t s e l f ; s t i l l l e s s do I f e e l t h a t i t can in v o lv e th e c .o n trib u to rs

to m e d ic al b e n e f it fu n d s i n any in c r e a s e d weekly e x p e n d itu re u n le s s th e r e

i s a r e a l a ssu ra n ce t h a t ■th e b e n e f its w hich should r e s u l t w i l l be re a s o n a b ly

perm anent, and n o t m erely t r a n s i t o r y , a s was the c a se i n 1960.

2

/?

"The m edical p r o f e s s io n , I have "been a ss u re d , d e c id e d l a s t May

to ask i t s members to s t a b i l i z e t h e i r c h a rg e s , i n o rd e r t h a t th e v o lu n ta ry

. . \

h e a lth in s u ra n c e system sh o u ld n o t b e p r e ju d ic e d . I a c c e p te d t h i s r e p o r t

a t th e tim e as a most fa v o u ra b le developm ent. I t appeared to b e most

enco u rag in g . ,

"Yet from th e b e g in n in g of J u ly , d o c to rs i n W estern A u s t r a lia

have d e c id e d to in c re a s e t h e i r ch arg es f o r s u rg e ry and home v i s i t s frem -

17 /6 and 2 5 / to 21 / and 3 0 /. S im ila r c h arg es in Tasm ania have b e en

in c re a s e d , from th e same d a te , from 2 1 / and 2 5 / to 25/ and 3 1 /6 , w ith c h arg es

from £ 2 to £3 f o r home v i s i t s a f t e r h o u rs . -

"These charges a r e n o t n e c e s s a r ily u n re a so n a b le . I do n o t

q u e s tio n them i n th a t r e s p e c t. I t i s a p p a r e n t, how ever, t h a t th e r e i s

s t i l l no r e a l a ssu ra n c e to th e Commonwealth t h a t i f i t a g re e s t o in c re a s e

i t s m ed ical b e n e f i t c o n tr ib u tio n s , th e y w i l l n o t b e fo llo w e d i n seme S ta te ,

alm ost c e r t a i n l y i n some c i t i e s and c e r t a i n l y b y some d o c to r s , by s t i l l

f u r t h e r in c r e a s e s .

" I do n o t know p r e c is e ly how th e m edical p r o f e s s io n i s t o m eet

t h i s problem . I t i s c e r t a i n l y f o r th e p r o f e s s io n to p r o f f e r th e answ er

r a t h e r th a n f o r me o r th e Government to a tte m p t to d i c t a t e . I f th e m e d ic a l

p r o f e s s i o n i s p re p a re d t e campaign f o r in c re a s e d in s u ra n c e b e n e f i t s , however,

i t has a d e f i n i t e o b lig a tio n to o f f e r th e community, i n some form o r o th e r ,

th e k in d o f re a s s u ra n c e I have m entioned.

"I do n o t in te n d to g iv e th e im p ressio n t h a t th e Government i s n o t

i n sympathy w ith what has been p roposed. I t i s most a n x io u s t h a t th e

v o lu n ta ry h e a lt h in su ra n c e scheme sh o u ld c o n tin u e to work e f f i c i e n t l y . I t

m ust, however, be a p p re c ia te d t h a t i t i s not re a s o n a b le f o r th e ta x p a y e r,

o r th e m edical b e n e f i t fund c o n tr ib u to r to be a sk e d to keep on m eetin g

in c re a s e d m e d ic al c h a rg e s , i n an a t tem pt to keep up w ith m ounting m ed ical

expenses· i f th e r e i s n o t to b e some p o s i t i v e elem en t of r e s t r a i n t a t th e

u p p e r end o f th e c o s ts s p i r a l . "

23rd J u ly , 1963.