The Guardian March 1, 2000


Doctors ask Beazley to affirm commitment to Medicare

"The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley's statement that any future 
Labor government would retain the 30 per cent private health insurance 
rebate is effectively saying that there would need to be significant cuts 
to Medicare under a future Labor government", said Dr Peter Davoren, 
National President of the Doctors' Reform Society (DRS).

"It is incredible that in the one statement, Mr Beazley admits that the $10 
billion of public money going into the pockets of the private health 
insurance industry over the next four years is a `monumental waste of 
money', but that a future Labor government would continue the rebate to 
help pensioners afford private health insurance!", said Dr Davoren.

The Government introduced the rebate  a 30 percent refund on the amount 
paid by individuals and families for private health insurance.

The aim of the rebate is to pull people out of the public health system 
into the private sector. This is despite the strong preference the 
Australian public have for Medicare  as indicated in the Federal 
elections and by their remaining in the far superior and cost-effective 
public system.

In effect the rebate is a subsidy, paid by taxpayers, for the private 
health system. The cost of the subsidy was originally estimated at around 
$1.6 billion per annum.

It has blown out to well over $2 billion  not so much because people are 
flocking to private insurance but because wealthier people who were already 
insured have been upgrading their insurance at little or no extra cost 
because of the rebate.

Not one cent of the $10 billion of public monies being poured into this 
private sector subsidy will be used to provide additional beds or employ 
nurses or doctors.

"If the Federal Government is really concerned about taking the pressure 
off the public system then they would either give the money to the public 
hospitals where it is needed or to the private hospital system to pay for 
the care of public patients", said Dr Con Costa, National Vice President of 
the DRS.

"The only thing being achieved by giving such massive amounts of tax 
payers' money to the private health insurance industry is to slowly bleed 
Medicare and our public hospitals to death", said Dr Costa.

One of the strengths of Medicare is that it is a universal scheme, not a 
second class safety net for the most disadvantaged, which it will become if 
the Government continues to drain funds and drive people into the highly 
expensive and less accountable, user-pays private system.

"Is Labor's vision for health in Australia moving closer towards the 
notorious user pays American system where costs and medical care are 
totally out of control?", asked Dr Costa.

"The Doctors' Reform Society calls on Mr Beazley and the ALP to affirm its 
commitment to a universal public health system with equal access for all 
Australians", said Dr Davoren and Dr Costa.

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