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Means-tested Medicare: will your family qualify for health care?

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Stephen Smith MP

Member for Perth

Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing



05/2003       Monday 10 February 2003






Health Minister Patterson today refused to rule out the me ans-testing of bulk billing and refused to commit the Howard Government to retain Medicare as a universal system of health cover for all Australians.


Minister Patterson let the Government’s intentions slip during a doorstop interview this afternoon called after secret Government documents showed that the Government was warned in December 2001 that bulk billing was in danger of going into free fall unless the Government took action.


Journalist: Can you rule out means-testing for bulk billing?


Patterson: I’m not proposing to rule anything in or ruling anything out…


Journalist: But surely something as radical as means-testing, Minister, you should rule in or out.


Patterson: I don’t know how you do that.


Health Minister Patterson is now softening up the A ustralian people for radical changes to Medicare that will turn it into a second-class safety net only for low-income Australians.


If means-testing is part of the Government’s secret new plan for health, those people who do not qualify for Medicare will be forced to pay even more for their own health care costs - already increasing under this Government at a rate more than double the rate of inflation.


Bulk billing is an essential part of Medicare and it is absolutely vital to ensure good quality health care for all Australians - not just concession and health care card holders.


John Howard has always been opposed to Medicare and to bulk billing.  In the 1980s he said he wanted to “tear Medicare apart” and put an end to bulk billing.


By refusing to rule out means-testing, Minister Patterson has shown that the realisation of John Howard’s anti-Medicare vision is closer than we think.


Contact: Andrew Dempster  02 6277 4108  or  0407 435 157