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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 1244

Mr Kennedy asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   Will the Minister bring up to date the information sought in question No. 4625, placed on the Notice Paper on 3rd November 1971, concerning the operation of the subsidised health benefits scheme, by providing similar figures as at 30th December 1971.

(2)   What increase or decrease in (a) numbers and (b) percentages do these figures and percentages represent in comparison with details as at 30th September 1971.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

When the Minister provided the answer to the honourable member's previous question (No. 4625) it was pointed out that there were certain qualifications to the figures provided which would be relevant to any conclusions that might be drawn. Qualifications will also apply in respect of this answer and these are:

(a)   The figures for eligible low income families supplied by the Department of Social Services are those as at 3rd January 1972 and for unemployment, sickness or special beneficiaries as at 25th December 1971. Those figures may not coincide with the enrolment figures as supplied by health insurance organisations.

(b)   Some health insurance organisations do not maintain detailed membership records and the membership figures which have been supplied, are, to some degree, on an estimated basis; for example, some organisations do not take into account changes arising from lapses in individual membership until some time after an individual membership lapse has occurred.

(c)   In the case of unemployment, sickness or special beneficiaries, a proportion would already be enrolled as ordinary insured persons with organisations and they may not consider it worthwhile taking advantage of subsidised benefits because of the possible short period involved.

(d)   With regard to migrants, it is necessary to take into consideration that the total figures for migrant settlers do not represent the number of persons entitled to be enrolled in the Subsidised Health Benefits Plan because, in the case of families, enrolment by the head of the family provides Subsidised Health Benefits entitlements for the whole of the family. The numbers of single persons and of family groups of particular sizes are available for assisted migrants but, in the case of unassisted migrants, the figures used in this answer represent an estimate made by the Department of Immigration.

(e)   The figures provided relate to the position at a particular point of time and therefore do not give a true indication of the extent to which persons are availing themselves of the benefits provided under the Plan. It should also be noted that the number enrolled in funds does not reflect the success or otherwise of the Plan as, in the main, only those who receive treatment and need benefits are in fact enrolling.

With the foregoing in mind, the following information, as at 31st December 1971, is provided:

Low Income Families

The number of such families who may be eligible for assistance under the Plan at any point in time is not known and there is no means of ascertaining the changes which no doubt occur from week to week. The following table shows the number of low income families approved as eligible for assistance by the Department of Social Services, including those whose actual eligibility expired in the previous 28 days, and those enrolled as members of health insurance organisations as at 3rd January 1972.


Unemployment, Sickness or Special Beneficiaries

Unemployment, sickness or special beneficiaries automatically become eligible for assistance under the Plan when their entitlement to the respective Social Service benefit has been determined. In the following table, the number of eligible persons includes not only those currently in receipt of Social Services benefit, but also those whose eligibility expired in the previous 28 days. Figures are as at 25th December 1971.


Note: For both low income families and unemployment, sickness or special beneficiaries -

Australian Capital Territory figures are included in New South Wales.

Northern Territory figures are included in South Australia for entitlement certificates, and in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland for membership.


In respect of migrants, it is not necessary for separate application for assistance to be made. By obtaining an entitlement card from the Department of Health and joining a health insurance fund, migrants are eligible for full benefits under the Plan during their first 2 months in Australia.

The following figures show the total number of migrant settlers arriving in Australia during the 2 months ending 3 1st December 1971, the estimated number who would need to enrol as contributors under the Subsidised Health Benefits Plan and the actual number enrolled in health insurance organisations at that date.


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