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Veterans' Gold card worthless in Tasmania.

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SENATOR MARK BISHOP Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs Senator for Western Australia

7 December 2004

Veterans' Gold Card Worthless in Tasmania

Veterans in Tasmania seeking specialist treatment are being flown to the mainland due to Tasmanian medical specialists' boycott of the Gold Card.

The Howard Government has ignored this problem now for two years, and there is no end in sight.

The veterans' Gold Card in Tasmania is worthless, and the Australian public's commitment to the health care of veterans and war widows is being dishonoured.

Specialist care for war caused injury is simply no longer available in Tasmania, especially in the area of orthopaedics. Other specialties such as urology, ophthalmology and neurosurgery are also difficult to access.

For specialists this is a commercial matter as they say they are no longer willing to treat veterans and war widows below cost. Some may, but only as public patients in public hospitals.

That completely defeats the purpose of the Gold Card which is for private health care for all conditions.

Veterans' organisations have disclosed they have been advised by specialists that fee increases due to commence on 1 January next are inadequate and will have no effect.

It's only a matter of time before the more limited boycott in other states gathers pace.

The first of January 2005 is D-Day for the Gold Card.

If the fee increases do not change specialists' attitudes, then the Gold Card scheme will crumble. Veterans will exercise their choice of private health insurance - which some already have.

The Howard Government must stop playing games with veterans' health, and negotiate an acceptable schedule of fees with specialist colleges. Veterans and war widows deserve better.

Media details: Senator Mark Bishop 0419 959 892

or Peter Reece 0414 677 441