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Catholic Health says package shows health not Govt priority

Catholic Health Australia CEO Francis Sullivan believes the Federal Government's $2.4 billion injection of funds to bolster Medicare fails to demonstrate its commitment to health care for all Australians.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday unveiled a revamped national health system, underpinned by an extra $5 rebate for GPs to encourage them to bulk-bill concession card holders and children under 16. This is in addition to an expanded safety net, which will repay 80% of out-of-pocket medical costs over $500 a year incurred by families on incomes up to $115,000.

Mr Sullivan told The Australian's national affairs editor Mike Steketee that the Government is signalling through yesterday's package "that it really won't be able to keep pace with the rising cost of medical practice".

With yesterday's initiative based on a series of safety nets for parts of the population, he believes the Government is clearly not interested in maintaining Medicare as a universal health care system.

"The Medicare benefit is eroding and the Government is saying it is only going to bolster it for low and middle-income Australia," he said.

For the remainder of the population, Australia's health care system will resemble an American-style "user pays" arrangement.

Mr Sullivan pointed out that the Government is showing its determination to make more money available for income tax cuts in the coming election year.

Uncertain bill of health (The Australian 19/11/03)

Catholic Health Australia: Health System Still Full Of Flaws (Opinion article published in Australian Financial Review (19/11/03, page 71, print edition)
Senate fight for PM's $2.4bn Medicare fix (Sydney Morning Herald)
Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP MedicarePlus Announcement, Hungarian Community Centre, Wantirna, Melbourne (18/11/03)
Catholic Health Australia

19 Nov 2003