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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5876

Mrs HULL (1:56 PM) —It would have been kind of the member for Blair to have taken just a little bit longer! But as I am now on my feet I will take the opportunity to speak—for the three minutes before the debate is interrupted—on the issues before us with this Health Insurance Amendment (Extended Medicare Safety Net) Bill 2009.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member need not rush; you can speak when the debate is resumed if you want.

Mrs HULL —I am enormously concerned about some of the services that are being capped through this legislation. The concerns that I have revolve primarily around obstetric services, assisted reproductive technology and types of cataract surgery that will be capped under this bill. I would also like to go further and speak about the concerns that I have that are not directly related to this bill but are yet to come into this House, particularly to do with cataract surgery. While only one type of cataract surgery is affected by this particular bill, there are significant issues yet to come that are associated with cataract surgery in general. In particular, there is the decision to reduce by half the payment to ophthalmologists for cataract surgery. It is an issue that ophthalmologists will have to start to contend with.

Over the years, it seems that ophthalmologists and cataract surgeons have had their payments cut significantly. The schedule fee for cataract surgery in the early 1980s was around $800. In 1996 the then government cut that fee by around 30 per cent. Now this government wants to cut that fee in half again. In late 2009, I believe, the fee for cataract surgery will be cut by at least half, and that will bring the fee for doing cataract surgery back to half of what it was over 25 years ago in real dollar terms. That is still to come, but I think that is going to be of even greater significance than what is being put in place under this bill before us today. I will speak further on that issue later.

The issue of assisted reproductive technology—

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.