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Doctors must accept medical indemnity offer.

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Senator Aden Ridgeway Australian Democrats Consumer Affairs Spokesperson 17 December 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/896

Doctors Must Accept Medical Indemnity Offer

The Australian Democrats have called on doctors to accept the Government’s offer on medical indemnity.

Democrats Consumer Affairs spokesperson, Senator Aden Ridgeway, said that in return for this extensive assistance offered to doctors the community must now be guaranteed that all possible measures will be put in place to ensure their safety is not compromised.

“The quality and safety programs that doctors are required to undertake in return for this lifeline should be the government’s top priority in order to restore some balance to this crisis,” said Senator Ridgeway.

“The community has borne the brunt of blame for the general insurance crisis and the medical indemnity crisis through tort law reform, and now through even greater subsidies and concessions granted to the medical profession - estimated to be increasing to around $50 million per year.

“Basing insurance costs on income levels may seem like a practical and easy method of calculating premiums, but we must not lose perspective of the generosity of this offer as the Government really cannot calculate the amount of damages it may be picking up in the future.

“This cannot be another means of lining the pockets of the insurers, such as UMP, whose unsustainable and irresponsible business practices precipitated this situation in the first place.”

So far, taxpayers have assisted the medical profession insurance bailout in the following ways:

! the subsidy scheme for some specialists to fund 50% of the difference between the premium costs for a specialist compared to a generalist medical professional

! funding 50 % of the cost of medical indemnity insurance payouts over 500,000, (which has now been reduced to $300,000)

! the 'Blue Sky' scheme, where the government will provide payment of damages for theoretical amounts of $20 million dollars or more;

! a retirement cover package to protect doctors who plan to retire from practice

! financial support for unfunded incurred-but-not-reported liabilities (IBNRs) of medical defence organisations (MDOs)

! acting as guarantor for UMP.

“The type of assistance granted to the medical profession has not been afforded to other important health professionals such as midwives, who are struggling to get even the most basic type of insurance cover on the table,” concluded Senator Ridgeway.

Contact: Liz Willis 0417 410 506