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Minister defends veteran health care.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

M i n i s t e r f o r V e t e r a n s ’ A f f a i r s

M i n i s t e r A s s i s t i n g t h e M i n i s t e r f o r D e f e n c e

T H E H O N. D E - A N N E K E L L Y B E M P

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 Telephone: (02) 6277 7820 Facsimile: (02) 6273 4140

VA158 Tuesday 11 October 2005

MINISTER DEFENDS VETERAN HEALTH CARE

The Australian Government was always willing to work with doctors to ensure veterans received the care they need, but could not accept claims by AMA Queensland that the Government was treating veterans like second-class citizens, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, De-Anne Kelly, said today.

Mrs Kelly said the Government had increased payments to specialists who treated eligible veterans by 15 per cent for consultations and 20 per cent for procedures from January 1 this year.

She said AMA Queensland was clearly out of step with its national body, which supported the Government’s strong Budget initiatives. Then AMA national president Dr Bill Glasson wrote to the Minister on May 11, 2005, saying: “The AMA commends the Minister and the DVA for acknowledging the unique problems and challenges of health care for veterans and coming good with funding in the election and the Budget”.

Mrs Kelly said the Government had made veterans’ health a priority since coming to office, increasing funding from $1.8 billion in 1996 to $4.6 billion in 2005-06.

“In recent years, we have worked hard to secure access for veterans to free, comprehensive health care, increasing fees paid to general practitioners and specialists to provide appropriate remuneration for treating eligible veterans and war widows under the Gold and White Cards,” Mrs Kelly said.

“Since 1 January 2005, general practitioners registered as Local Medical Officers have received 115% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for consultations, as well as the increased Veterans’ Access Payment of $5.50 for all short consultations and $4 for all other items.

“As a result of the Government’s initiatives, there are 18 000 LMOs providing services to the veteran community, an increase of 4500 since 2003.”

The Minister said the Government had committed an additional $157.7 million over four years in 2004-05 to increase the fees paid to specialists for treating veteran patients.

“I am only aware of 383 specialists out of some 17 000 nationally who have advised of the withdrawal of their services to veterans,” Mrs Kelly said.

“Of these, only 97 nationally have actually stopped treating veteran patients.”

Mrs Kelly said she was ready to work with the medical profession to ensure members of the veteran community received the health care to which they were entitled.

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“The Australian community holds veterans in high regard for their service to our country, and the Government is committed to ensuring that the 261 000 veterans and war widows who have Gold Cards will receive they care they need,” Mrs Kelly said.

“Australia is recognised as having one of the best repatriation systems in the world and this has only been achieved through consultation and cooperation between the Australian Government, health care professionals and the veteran community.

“I will be meeting with AMA Queensland next month to discuss a range of issues with members.”

Media contact: Craig Clarke 0417 889 423