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Thursday, 11 March 2004
Page: 21369

Senator ALLISON (12:40 PM) —I doubt I will get the answers to these questions, but I want to put them on the record anyway today. Perhaps at some later stage the minister can get round to answering them. It would be interesting to know the age and demographic profile of the 150,000 people who currently receive case management plans. It would be interesting to know how much of that $35 consultation fee that is being paid to the GPs to be passed on to allied health professionals will actually be paid to them—in other words, how much will GPs keep in return for the administrative cost of doing that? What is the average consultation fee by allied health workers? Thirty-five dollars does not sound a lot. A lot of those allied health workers will have 45-minute consultations. What happens to the gap? If it is $90 for an hour's consultation, does that gap go into the safety net, for instance? If there is a maximum of five consultations out of which at least two health workers will be paid, are you effectively saying that each allied health professional will only receive a maximum of two payments? How that works would be interesting to know.

At the moment members of health insurance funds can sometimes claim $90 or $122 for allied health services such as dentistry or physiotherapy on their ancillary insurance, but they are prohibited from claiming any service that has an MBS item number. Is this part of the MBS item number system, and so does it take it out of private health insurance for those people? In which case, how do they work all this out? Will the establishment of an MBS item mean that people with private health insurance will not be able to access allied health care through private insurance from now on? If not, how will people with private health insurance decide? At what point will they be able to make that decision—whether they are better off claiming allied health through this approach or a private insurance approach? Does the government intend to change the act to allow private health insurers to insure for the first time against items that are covered by Medicare for out-of-hospital expenses? If so, is that a backdoor approach to what A Fairer Medicare attempted to put in place—which was private health insurance cover for the gap? To have a serious response to these questions—and I am sure there are many more—would be very useful, Minister.