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Latham must spell out his policy on private health insurance rebate.

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Latham Must Spell Out His Policy On Private Health Insurance Rebate Monday, December 08, 2003

New Labor leader Mark Latham must tell Tasmanians if he still thinks the 30% private health insurance rebate is “madness” and whether a Federal Labor Government would scrap it, Senator Guy Barnett said today.

“There are 44 per cent of Tasmanians who hold private health insurance for hospital cover, and almost 50 per cent who hold hospital and ancillary cover. Each family receives a 30% rebate of about $750 a year on average. I want to know if Mr Latham wants to take that money off them,” Senator Barnett said.

“If he wants to scrap the rebate and spend the money on health generally then he is taxing families and putting pressure back on the public hospital system,” he said.

Even the national AMA president Dr Bill Glasson has said the public health system would not survive without the rebate.

Senator Barnett said Mr Latham in February 2000 described the 30% rebate as “madness”. (Hansard 16/2/00).

In 1997 Mr Latham said the 30% rebate was “bad economics”, he said it was the “maddest piece of public policy you will ever see” and he described it as, “a first rate absurdity”. (Hansard 1/12/97).

Mr Latham should tell the 220,000 or so Tasmanians who depend on the rebate, whether they would lose it under Labor, just because he thinks it is absurd.

“It is no use him fudging it. He must spell out what would happen to the rebate under a Labor Government, because my impression is he would scrap it and deliver Tasmanians and Australians a secret tax increase of at least $750 a year and in some cases well over $1000,” Senator Barnett said.

He said the Tasmanian Labor Government had already recommended the scrapping of the private health insurance rebate

In its submission to the Senate Select Inquiry into Medicare the Tasmanian Government also claimed the rebate was not easing pressure on the public hospital system - which is factually wrong.

“Labor’s health policy will hurt families, not help them. There are one million Australian battlers earning $20,000 or less a year, who have private health insurance, and these people would especially suffer if the rebate was removed.

“They would be forced to find up to $1000 to find each year for their private health insurance so many would simply opt out of private health insurance and clog up the public hospital system again, while surgery waiting lists and waiting times would grow astronomically,” Senator Barnett said.