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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop: private health insurance.



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T R A N S C R I P T

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - Parliament House, Canberra Tuesday 4 February 2003

E & OE

Subject: Private Health Insurance

SMITH: Well today, State and Territory Health Ministers meet to consider a report on the Howard Government’s 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate, which has been done by Professor John Deeble, one of the architects of Medicare.

The report, as I understand it, says that there’s been no significant impact on the utilisation of public hospitals, which was the Government’s great claim. The Government said that the private health insurance rebate would take the pressure off public hospitals.

I understand Professor Deeble’s report indicates that there’s been no material impact on public hospitals. It also indicates that 60% of the rebate goes to ancillaries or to people simply upgrading their private health insurance cover.

I see overnight Minister Patterson again ruling out any change whatsoever to the rebate. There’s a stark contrast here: we are happy to review the rebate. We are happy to look at an array of options to ensure that both the taxpayer and the consumer get value for money. So there’s a stark contrast here, the Government’s absolutely committed to no change to the rebate, while we’re happy to review it to ensure that the consumer and the taxpayer gets value for money.

I understand that Professor Deeble’s report canvasses an array of options which I’ve previously publicly canvassed: capping the rebate, means-testing it, taking it off ancillaries, or requiring strings to be attached for the private health insurance industry or the private health industry, if they get the direct or indirect benefit of the rebate.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree the $2.3 billion would be better spent in the public health system?

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SMITH: Well, we’ve made the point that we’re entitled to ensure that those funds are spent in the most effective way. On the other hand, the Government has the view that the funds are well spent even though those

funds go on things as arcane, so far as health outcomes are concerned, as second-hand golf clubs, camping tents and relaxation CDs.

So, we want to ensure there’s value for money here. We want to ensure the taxpayer and the consumer gets value for money. That’s why we’ve got the rebate under review.

Ends

Contact : Andrew Dempster - 0407 435 157 or 02 6277 4108