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Minister confused on mental health.

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Shadow Minister for Health


The Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, was today unable to answer questions in Parliament about Australians with a mental illness who have been denied access to private health insurance.

Senator Patterson admitted that she knew some people with pre-existing conditions were precluded from accessing private health insurance, but had no answer to those Australians suffering ongoing discrimination at the hands of insurance companies.

The Mental Health Council of Australia and beyondblue, the national depression initiative, have been arguing to ensure that Australians with mental health problems receive fair treatment and fair access to health insurance.

Several Australians who have given evidence recently to the Senate Inquiry into Poverty have spoken of their distress at the refusal of private health insurance companies to pay claims for basic mental health services.

The Howard Government’s proposed changes to Medicare will establish a two-tiered system of health care, with most Australians reliant on private health insurance to cover spiralling doctor’s fees.

Yet the Health Minister does not appear concerned that a significant number of the one in five Australians who suffer mental illness are shut out of the private insurance market.

These people have no option but to meet escalating doctors’ fees themselves, or join the increasing queues at the few remaining GPs who bulk bill. As barriers to care increase, many Australians will end up going without the care and support they need.

Minister Patterson knows that private health insurance is not the solution to growing health care costs, and she should start listening to the needs of those Australians who fall between the cracks.

For further information contact:

Jamie Snashall on 0407 438 746 14 August 2003