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Safety net gap payment setting the scene for prices blow-out.

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Senator Lyn Allison

Australian Democrats

Health and Ageing Spokesperson 2 May 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/271

Safety net gap payment setting the scene for prices blow-out

The Government’s proposed safety net, part of its Medicare changes, would inevitably lead to price increases across the board in health care, forcing families to take out private health insurance, the Australian Democrats said today.

Democrats’ Health Spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said the $1 a week premium to cover co-payments to GPs, specialists, x-rays and cancer treatment would initially only be taken up by the sick and the wealthy elderly.

“But as prices of all of these services go up, the young and the healthy will be eventually railroaded into taking out the GP insurance, the same as they were with Lifetime Health Cover.”

Senator Allison said, “It is likely that over time the $1 a week safety net will rise to $5 due to a lack of control over doctors’ fee schedules.

“There is sufficient economic evidence to suggest private health insurance leads to increases in prices. With the lid off bulk-billing for GPs, it won’t be long before pathologists and radiologists stop bulk-billing, and along with specialist fees, reaching $1000 won’t be too hard for many families.”

The Democrats want a Senate inquiry to examine the impact of changes to Medicare.

Responding to the Federal Government’s $42b hospital funding offer to the States, Senator Allison said the Medicare reforms had been instructive in revealing an agenda to take health care back to the 1960s.

“The Medicare changes mean the Democrats will want to scrutinise very closely anything this Government is proposing to do regarding funding of hospitals.

“The hospital funding offer that they are presenting to the States must be looked at by an independent arbiter to ensure we don’t end up with poorly resourced public hospitals,” Senator Allison concluded.

Contact: John Derry 0408 056 167