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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) . - Speaking to the same point, Mr. Chairman, let me say that members constantly receive letters from constituents who are in the over 65 years age group, complaining that although they have contributed for benefits at the higher rate they find, when submitting their claim to the fund, that having been transferred to the special account they are entitled only to benefit at the public ward rate. In many cases they may have contributed at a rate which would entitle them either to treatment in an intermediate or private ward, or which would be sufficient to give them a cash surplus over the cost of their treatment in a public ward, but they have been told that as they are in the special account they are not entitled to receive a benefit in excess of the amount that is necessary to meet the cost of treatment in a public ward.

When the Minister closed the debate on the second reading of this bill, he gave an assurance that every one who wished to continue to contribute at a higher rate would continue to receive benefits at the appropriate higher rate for the thirteen weeks, or whatever the period is, before the special account provisions operate. But as there are so many complaints from contributors and patients that they have not been treated in accordance with the Minister's assurance, I should be glad if the Minister would have a further look at the matter to make sure that the law is operating in accordance with the substantial assurances that he gave me about twelve months ago when other amending legislation was before the House.

In addition, I should like the Minister to make a clear statement as to whether there is any advantage to be gained by an age or invalid pensioner continuing his membership of a hospital or medical benefit fund. Numbers of these people complain that although they have contributed to funds they have been deprived of any return because they have received free treatment in public wards of public hospitals. Is it appropriate, therefore, to advise pensioners that it is not in their interests to continue their membership of these funds?

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