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Bulk billing data released: health costs eat way at tax cut.



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JULIA GILLARD M.P.

Shadow Minister for Health Manager of Opposition Business 12 May 2006

BULK BILLING DATA RELEASED: HEALTH COSTS EAT AWAY AT TAX CUT

The out of pocket cost to see a GP has risen by 18 per cent since December 2005, from $14.24 to $16.75, according to Medicare Australia data released today by the Minister for Health, Tony Abbott.

The out of pocket cost to see a specialist has increased by 28 per cent since December 2005, from $28.27 to $36.29 per visit.

As confirmed in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, the biggest increase in expenditure for Australian families is already in the area of medical care and health expenses, particularly health practitioners’ fees.

With health costs already representing a significant burden on Australian families, such an increase in a 3 month period means this is another cost that will quickly eat up Peter Costello’s tax cut.

Despite Minister Abbott’s self congratulations on the impact of the so-called Strengthening Medicare package, this week’s Health Budget revealed the bulk billing incentive program from Strengthening Medicare will be up for review after the next election.

What concerns Labor is the fact that what Minister Abbott calls a ‘review’ is clearly a cut because there is no funding allocated to the programs beyond 2008-09.

While bulk billing has increased slightly it is clear the Howard Government has no long term commitment to Medicare or bulk billing.

In fact while Peter Costello’s Budget provides for spending on health to grow more slowly than government spending generally , it is safe to assume the Howard Government is happy for sick Australians to pay the extra themselves or go without care.

Tony Abbott has failed to deliver an agenda for the future of the Australian health system. He has squandered an opportunity to build a reformed health system which would meet the needs of average Australian families and keep health costs reasonable.

12 MAY 2006

CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner 0417 428 123