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Private health insurance rebate relieves pressure on Victoria's public hospitals.

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Media Release Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

KP 9/2002 February 27, 2002

PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE REBATE RELIEVES PRESSURE ON VICTORIA'S PUBLIC HOSPITALS The private health insurance rebate had helped to relieve pressure on Victoria's public hospitals with an extra 74,000 private hospital procedures over the past year, Federal Health Minister, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

She was responding to comments from Victorian Health Minister, John Thwaites, that private health rebates were a failure because some people were choosing to enter public hospitals and not use their private health insurance.

Senator Patterson said: "Far from being a failure, the public hospital system in Victoria has had a great deal of strain lifted from it by the Federal Government's 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate and Lifetime Health Cover.

"Over the past year, 494, 318 Victorians have chosen to have procedures in private hospitals in this State. That is a rise of 18% or 73,883 procedures."

Senator Patterson said if the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate had not been so effective, these procedures would have been performed in the public system, adding pressure to the State's public hospital waiting lists.

She said under an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the Federal Government was entitled to clawback money from the States if the number of people with private health cover grew.

Senator Patterson said: "The Federal Government was entitled to clawback $3 billion from the States over the past three years under the current Australian Health Care Agreement, but did not do so. This gave the States more money to fund public hospitals. This was on top of the 28% increase in funding under the current agreement.

"It is very encouraging to see that Mr Thwaites' own hospital, the Austin, has seen a recent big rise in the number of patients who are declaring they have private health insurance."

Media Contact: Randal Markey 0417 694 520