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Thursday, 19 September 1985
Page: 749

Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to examples where the new definition of `day patient' has caused severe hardship and much inconvenience to families meeting costs of private hospital day care? Is it a fact that the new day benefit of $80 does not cover genuine instances of greater cost and has led to changed procedures such as patients, even children, being discharged immediately after midnight to avoid payments for higher gap expenses or patients being admitted the evening before the procedures are planned? Is it also a fact that if very sick patients are admitted at, say, 10 a.m. and die by 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., the total basic table benefit is still $80 which goes nowhere near meeting the cost of the intensive care provided? Will the Minister for Health review the `day' definition and reconsider an eight-hour or 12-hour stay being sufficient to allow higher reimbursement from the funds and the payment of a patient bed subsidy, now avoided by the Commonwealth, so as to relieve out-of-pocket expenditure of $100 or more?

Senator GRIMES —I have had submissions concerning problems with the new definition for the payment of day benefits. I know that the Minister for Health is having this matter looked at, although I have not spoken to him about it recently. Senator Harradine will realise that the new definition was introduced to cope with people who were rorting the system under the old definition and, as often happens, in this area, one group of doctors and sometimes hospital proprietors cause difficulties for others when they engage in that sort of activity. I think there may well be a case for change in certain circumstances. I know that the Minister for Health is looking at that. I will contact the Minister and get a detailed answer for Senator Harradine as soon as possible, I hope today.