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Catholic Health says surplus could end Medicare pain for Australia's poor

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has used higher than expected Federal Budget surplus projections to argue that the Government is not doing its best to improve the capacity of Medicare to meet the costs of a GP visit for most Australians.

Yesterday's release of Access Economic's annual budget forecast reveals an underlying cash surplus of $9 billion in 2004-2005. It's widely expected that the Government will use this surplus to provide tax cuts in next Tuesday's Feder Budget, to ensure its popularity with the electorate in an election year.

"The Government has deliberately changed Medicare for GP visits to a welfare system," said CHA CEO Francis Sullivan. "Now even the poorest must pay $300 before they receive any cash relief."

"Under this new system up to 260,000 individuals and families who spend more than $300 but less than $700 a year on non hospital medical services will miss out on the benefits of Medicare Plus," he said. "For the rest of the community the value of Medicare has been eroded and they can well expect higher fees."

"For an extra $700 million a year injection into the Medical Benefits Schedule the Government could have provided, and afforded, to give all Australians a better chance of being bulk billed and kept Medicare more in line with the real costs of medical care."

Report Shows Government Didn't Back Medicare (Catholic Health Australia 3/5/04)

Catholic Health Australia
Budget promise of a $15 tax cut (The Australian 3/5/04)
Tax cuts scepticism: a discussion (ABC Radio The World Today 3/5/04)

4 May 2004