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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1041

Mr HOLTEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. In order that the nation may make an assessment of the overall cost of the proposed national health scheme to the taxpayer, will the Minister state what are the amounts of the second and third means of financing the scheme, which are described in the pamphlet "The Plain Facts' as the levy on workers compensation and third party motor vehicle insurance? Also, is it a fact that some of the costs forecast in the Deeble-Scotton report for 1974-75 have already been exceeded?

Mr HAYDEN - The costs covering medical and hospital services related to workers compensation and third party insurance under the universal health insurance proposals are exactly the same as those which would have to be met by the systems operating now. I am sure that the honourable member is well aware that public hospitals and doctors, but more especially public hospitals, have a fairly serious financial difficulty because of late settlement, particularly of third party motor vehicle accident compensation claims. In Victoria and New South Wales the amounts of money involved are substantial to the point where the hospitals frequently have expressed public concern about delays in settlement.

Mr Reynolds - There have been delays of up to 5 years sometimes.

Mr HAYDEN - Yes. The honourable member for Indi probably would be aware that in a very high proportion of settlements - I cannot recall the figure, but it was shown by Butlin and Troy in their work and some of the work done by Professor Atiyah confirmed it - the delay exceeds 2 or even 3 yean. This aspect has many other unhappy associated features of a social and personal kind. So there is no increased cost to the community there. This is a simple formula to transfer quickly the money into the hospital system and into the pockets of doctors to save them these delays in receiving money.

The cost calculations were the best that could be made in the situation as it was at the time they were made, and the comparability that existed between the cost calculations for the new scheme and for the present scheme stands. I am always amazed by spokesmen for the Opposition, the funds and the medical profession who say: 'Look, costs have gone up. It will cost you more'. Of course it will, and the present scheme will cost more, quite obviously. But the significant factor about our proposed scheme is that for the same total cost as the current scheme, which covers only about 83 per cent to 87 per cent of the public at any time, it will cover 100 per cent of the community. The scheme will be cheaper for three out of 4 families and, where there is a working wife, for seven out of 10 families. It will cover everyone in the community and it will not fail as the present scheme does in respect of low income earners and the fringe dwelling Aborigines.

One of the most important features of this scheme is that it will be equitable. The cost will be borne according to one's ability to pay and not as it is now, where the wealthy find that it is cheaper to insure themselves than do the more needy people. Under the present scheme those who have not got it have to pay severely and those who have got it are subsidised generously. These are the things we will get away from. The proposed scheme will, for the same total cost, cover everyone in the community - not 83 per cent to 87 per cent as the present scheme does. Simple calculations will show that on average it must be cheaper. The other figures I have quoted also can be verified. I suggest to those spokesmen or parrots of the private health insurance funds that they produce some figures to back up their assertions about my statements, rather than generalise.

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