Monday, July 30, 2007

Medicare being crippled

Below is an article from The Age about our the private health subsidy that is now costing us 6 billion a year.

The likes of Tony Abbot [Health Minister] and John Howard should be in public office if they think the wants of big business and this includes health insurers, should influence health funding. Go back to practicing the law and let people with compassion for the poorer members of our society run the government. Governing is not about making surpluses and pandering to big business. It is about providing a fair go for the lower paid members of our society.

So have a read or go to the Article here.


The $6 billion "corporate welfare" paid to subsidise private health insurance each year is putting Medicare under threat, a former top bureaucrat says.

A summit in Canberra on Monday heard that major health system reform was necessary to make sure all Australians had access to affordable health care.

Almost half of the population had missed out on health services they needed because they could not afford them, while another 15 per cent suffered financial pressure after paying for health care, figures presented at the National Health Reform Summit showed.

Centre for Policy Development chair John Menadue said government subsidies for private health insurance (PHI) were approaching $6 billion a year, including $4.8 billion for the private health insurance rebate, lost tax from the Medicare levy exemption and TV advertising.

"The trend to a two-tier health system in Australia is a serious threat," Mr Menadue, a former head of three government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet under Gough Whitlam, said.

"When the government subsidises wealthy people in PHI to jump the queue, we are on the way to crippling Medicare.

"(Health Minister) Tony Abbott says that the Howard government is the best friend Medicare ever had. Words are one thing. Actions tell a different and alarming story."

Mr Menadue said the money would be better spent directly on mental, indigenous, preventative or dental health.

"Administration of the $6 billion annual subsidy to PHI should be transferred to Treasury, who would quickly recognise it for what it is - corporate welfare and not a health program," he said.

More than 40 health groups - including peak bodies for GPs, rural doctors, nurses and physiotherapists - are attending the meeting to push the government to reform the health system.

Mr Abbott was originally listed as speaking at the forum but declined to attend.

Mr Menadue said the health minister and his predecessors had been too timid to undertake a major redesign of the health system.

He said the government should set up a national independent authority to drive health reform, and call a public inquiry into the health system.

"Tony Abbott speaks of health as a 'dog's breakfast', but has made no serious effort to fix the mess," he said.

"Our health leaders lack the will for health reform because they are strongly influenced by the vested interests that abound in health."

Melbourne's Health Issues Centre CEO Centre Tony McBride told the forum that community consultations held across four states had found cost prevented 45 per cent of people accessing essential health care in the past 12 months.

Another 15 per cent had experienced financial hardship as a result of paying for care.

"Now it's not a representative sample, but even so these are very, very high figures, figures that I think would be concerning any health minister," Mr McBride told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

The private insurance subsidies meant wealthier Australians could access services such as dental care, but those who could least afford to pay for dentistry were getting nothing, he said.

Mr McBride added that many surveys showed people were willing to pay more for health care if the service was of good quality and equitable.

"So I think there are some good grounds for increasing the amount of money we give," he said.

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