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Catholic Health says Medicare package ignores low paid and families

The Federal Government's Medicare reform package announced yesterday "disproportionately hits the hard up and the sick and erodes the value of the Medicare entitlement for people without concession cards", according to Catholic Health Australia CEO Francis Sullivan.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday announced a $917 million package - A Fairer Medicare - which is claims will "strengthen Australia's universal health care system by making GP services more available and more affordable".

"There is no direct compensation for lower income people not bulk billed," Mr Sullivan said after the release of the package. "Even if privately insured they still must run up $1000 of fees a year before any benefit arrives."

"Families and people on meagre incomes will find bulk billing elusive and the benefits of medical gap insurance costing at least $1000 a year from an already over stretched household budget.

"Whilst recognising the complexity of the issue faced by the Government, it is difficult to see where non concession card holders can have confidence that they may be bulk billed at the doctors."

Mr Sullivan said it is "equally difficult to accept" that doctors' charges will not rise as private insurance "places a floor under market prices".

He called on the Government to seriously consider direct compensation measures to counteract the burdens he anticipates will be placed on lower paid people as doctor charges hit household budgets.

Meanwhile Catholic lobby group PolMin said the reforms do not adequately address rural health crisis.

Spokesperson James McGillicuddy said measures included in yesterday's package are "a step in the right direction", but they do not adequately address the real issues.

"A major policy review is required to investigate these issues," he said, pointing out that Australia is a signatory to the UN Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development 1995, which requires that rural Australians should have access to the same standard of health care enjoyed by those living in urban Australia.

Catholic Health Australia/PolMin

Catholic Health Australia | Canberra Update
A Fairer Medicare
Call for tax breaks to balance Medicare revamp (ABC)
No guarantee bulk billing will rise (The Age)

29 Apr 2003