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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4313

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) (1:08 PM) —in reply—I thank Senator Cormann for the support of the Liberal-National Party opposition in the Senate. Of course I do not agree with his editorial on the general approach of this Labor government in respect of private health insurance. The Labor government supports a strong private and public health system, and many of the prophecies of doom that Senator Cormann has been making of course have not come to fruition.

Senator Cormann —They’re still in your budget estimates.

Senator SHERRY —I did not interrupt the senator when he was speaking. It is the end of the session and we are here to deal with important budget bills. The senator should calm down. The Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 will amend the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 and the Age Discrimination Act 2004. The amendments will permanently allow private health insurers to offer extended family policies that cover people aged 18 to 24 inclusive who do not have a partner, who are not studying full-time at school, college or university and where the fund rules of a private health insurer provide for this group.

The private health insurers developed extended family policies to encourage 18- to 24-year-olds to continue their health cover into adulthood. Under the Private Health Insurance (Complying Product) Amendment Rules 2008 (No. 3) transitional arrangements were made to allow these extended family policies to continue until 31 December 2009. The bill will amend the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 to allow insurers to permanently offer extended family insurance policies. The bill also amends the Age Discrimination Act 2004 to provide an exemption for any unlawful age discrimination under the act which may arise from allowing a higher premium to be set for extended family policies.

The bill also includes consequential amendments to the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 consistent with the introduction of the Private Health Insurance (National Joint Replacement Register Levy) Bill 2009, which imposes a levy upon sponsors of joint replacement prostheses in order to recover the costs of maintaining the National Joint Replacement Register. The Private Health Insurance (National Joint Replacement Register Levy) Bill 2009 was passed on 18 June 2009. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.