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Bulk billing: Minister avoids Parliamentary scrutiny again.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

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

95/2002 Wednesday 13 November 2002

BULK BILLING: MINISTER AVOIDS PARLIAMENTARY SCRUTINY AGAIN

The Howard Government will once again avoid Parliamentary scrutiny of the crisis in bulk billing after Health Minister Patterson confirmed during Question Time in the Senate today that the latest figures will be released after Parliament rises this Thursday.

Minister Patterson recently told the Senate:

“The HIC reports six weeks after the period, but at the end of the financial year, they report eight weeks after the period.”

It is now six weeks and two days since the figures were due to be released.

Today the Minister advised the Senate that the Health Insurance Commission would release the figures on Friday - four days late and after Parliament rises for the week.

What a surprise.

The September Quarter figures to be released on Friday are likely to show another serious decline in bulk billing.

The June quarter figures showed that the biggest annual drop in bulk billing since the introduction of Medicare, including a fall of 3.1% from the same quarter last year and a fall of 6.7% since the Howard Government came to office in 1996.

In every year under Labor, bulk billing rates increased. In every year since the election of the Howard Government, bulk billing rates have decreased.

Bulk billing has declined in every State and Territory over the six years of the Howard Government.

As bulk billing rates have dropped, it has also become more expensive to see a GP who doesn’t bulk bill, with the average out-of-pocket cost up 44% since 1996 to $12 today.

The Government is achieving by inaction and attrition what John Howard said he wanted to do when he was Opposition Leader in the 1980s - namely, to destroy Medicare and bulk billing.

Labor, on the other hand, is absolutely committed to bulk billing and to Medicare.

Media Contact: Andrew Dempster (02) 6277 4108 or 0407 435 157