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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3579


Mr LAMB (LA TROBE, VICTORIA) - I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to objections raised recently by spokesmen against the Government's health insurance program about a Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics survey on health benefits cover which the Minister used. Has the Minister had an opportunity to consider those objections? Would he care to modify his figures, and would he care to comment?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The last part of the question, in regard to comment, is completely out of order. The Minister is entitled to answer that part of the question which relates to figures.


Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I am sorry about that because most of all I should like to comment. Last week in this House the Opposition spokesman on health and welfare matters questioned the accuracy of a reference in the White Paper on our health insurance program. The reference related to a Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics survey No. 17.7 on the cover for health benefit type programs available in the community. It was pointed out in the report that the present scheme covers about 87.7 per cent of the population. The spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Hotham, suggested that the cover did not include repatriation entitlements, and that the latter represented 2 per cent of the population. While it is true that local medical officer cover covers about 2 per cent of the population, in fact the bald figures are quite misleading. For instance, only 91,300 of such people are entitled to full treatment as single people. There are about 55,400 people who are married but have no entitlements for their dependants and, accordingly, have to take out private insurance for their dependants and, if there are children, that insurance has to be taken out at the married rate. There are 186,000 people who receive treatment only for accepted disabilities, which means they must take out medical and hospital insurance for any other sort of treatment they require. So honourable members will see that this figure is quite misleading. If we allow for those 93,300 people receiving full treatment and a proportion of those-


Mr McLeay - I rise to take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to question on notice No. 1358, which I believe is along the lines of the question now being answered.


Mr HAYDEN - Question on notice No. 1358 refers to people who are not covered.


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - He does not need your help. Mr Speaker, you only take orders from the Prime Minister.


Mr HAYDEN - It is bad enough taking advice from me. It would be worse taking it from the honourable member.


Mr SPEAKER -The question on the notice paper has no bearing to this answer. The Minister is now referring to those people who are covered, not to those who are not covered.


Mr HAYDEN - As I was saying, if we allow for those 91,300 people receiving full single treatment and for a proportion of the married people who receive full treatment, but not for their dependants, the proportion is much less than 1 per cent. Without wearying the House further, the important and major matter I wanted to raise concerns 2 quotations from a letter from Mr O'Neill, the Commonwealth Statistician, to whom I wrote so that there will be no doubt about what I am about to say because it is in writing. Mr O'Neill replied in response to my query:

I confirm that the survey did not specifically include in its questionnaire reference to cover by Repatriation in medical services but on the other hand it did not specifically exclude such cover.

He then said:

Although Repatriation medical benefits are not specifically mentioned, persons eligible for full medical benefits from Repatriation funds and for free treatment in Repatriation hospitals would almost certainly be described as covered.

So honourable members can see that the assumptions of the honourable member for Hotham were quite wrong. If, in fact, he makes allowances, as I have indicated, for the double cover of people receiving repatriation benefits but who are forced to take out private hospital and medical insurance and for people entitled to pensioner medical services who under the present system for procedural items of specialist care and for non-public ward treatment also have to take out private medical and hospital insurance - on the medical side there is quite a large number - the figure that I have cited would tend to overstate the degree of the cover in the community.


Mr Chipp - Mr Speaker,I rise to order. The Minister has quoted from a document. Under the appropriate standing order, I ask him to table it.


Mr HAYDEN - I am happy to have it incorporated in Hansard.


Mr Chipp - I seek to have the full letter incorporated.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Dear Mr Hayden,

I thank you for your letter of today's date in which you have asked for confirmation of a telephone statement on the coverage of 'Persons covered by Hospital and Medical Expenditure Assistance Schemes'- the Preliminary Statement published by this Bureau in May 1972, and for an outline of Schemes other than the Pensioner Medical Service which are embraced in the term 'non-contributory'.

2.   I confirm that the survey did not specifically include in its questionnaire reference to cover by Repatriation in medical services but on the other hand it did not specifically exclude such cover.

3.   The respondent was first questioned as to whether he was covered by a hospital or medical benefits fund. If he said 'yes', he was further questioned as to who paid into the fund or scheme. An acceptable answer was 'coverage is free'. If he said he was not covered by a fund he was further asked whether he was covered by any health insurance scheme which cost nothing.

4.   The specific instructions to help interviewers mentioned the following examples of free coverage for hospital and medical benefits.

Persons in receipt of: age pensions invalid pensions widow's pensions sheltered employment allowance service pensions certain persons undergoing rehabilitation persons receiving an allowance under the Tuberculosis Act dependent wife (or other female) children or student children of the foregoing persons persons receiving unemployment, sickness or special benefits low income families entitled to medical coverage and hospital benefits migrants who have joined a scheme - paid for by government for the first two months

5.   I do not have any more exhaustive list of the schemes of a non-contributory nature. Although Repatriation medical benefits are not specifically mentioned, persons eligible for full medical benefits from Repatriation funds and for free treatment in Repatriation hospitals would almost certainly be described as covered. On the other hand if there were partial entitlement only, it is possible that a person could describe himself as not covered. This would be in line with the Queensland experience where many persons have been recorded as uncovered, because they have no medical coverage, and do not regard being entitled to free public ward treatment in hospitals as being covered by a scheme.

Yours faithfully,

J.   P. O'NEILL, Commonwealth Statistician


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I believe that whilst I was looking at the notice paper earlier the honourable member for Griffith had something to say about the Chair being directed by the Prime Minister. Is that correct?


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - That is right; I did.


Mr SPEAKER -I ask the honourable member to withdraw and apologise.


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Well, obviously you-


Mr SPEAKER -I ask the honourable member to withdraw and apologise.


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I will withdraw for the sake of peace.


Mr SPEAKER - And apologise to the Chair.


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I apologise to the Chair.







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