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Senate inquiry confirms Democrats’ position on Medicare.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Senator Lyn Allison Australian Democrats Health Spokesperson th 11 February 2004 MEDIA RELEASE 04/062

Senate Inquiry Confirms Democrats’ Position on Medicare

The report of the Senate Inquiry into Medicare Plus, published today, confirms the Government’s proposals have failed to solve some of the serious problems in our health system, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said “The report, which took evidence from members of the public, academics and healthcare professionals, reveals a number of shortcomings.

“While Medicare Plus is a major improvement on the previous package, and many of the Democrat initiatives were taken up, it doesn’t go far enough, because:

• the $5 increase in the rebate for bulk billing children and concession card holders is unlikely to be enough to encourage doctors to bulk bill • there has been no attempt to restore adherence to the schedule fee, particularly for specialists • the safety net thresholds still leave patients with very high out of pocket expenses and

are highly likely to be inflationary • the package does little for those rural areas with little access to bulk billing or low fee GP services • specialist shortages and other drivers of costs that mean 2/3rds of out of pocket costs in

specialist services have not been addressed

The Democrats propose that: • all bulk billed consultations should receive the $5 increase in the rebate provided doctors meet agreed targets • efforts be made to restore the schedule fee as an integral part of Medicare, including an

indexation system that is fairer and more transparent • the safety net be extended to all Australians with Medicare cards, thresholds lowered and PBS and MBS combined

Democrats’ Health Spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said “It is critically important that the reliance on safety nets is only short term and that solutions to growing costs are found.”

Contact: Vara Szajkowski 0408 056 167