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Catholic Health says Medicare investment key election issue

In the main thrust of its election package, Catholic Health Australia has called on political parties to pledge a further increase to the rebate to GPs, in order to restore bulk billing to 1996-97 levels.

Catholic Health Australia, the country's non-government provider of health and aged care services, has compiled a series of targeted policies that would improve the fairness of the health and aged care systems. CEO Francis Sullivan said the policies are a "combination of the traditional approaches from both sides of the political divide".

Making a boost to bulk billing an election priority follows Friday's good news in the release of the June quarter bulk billing rates indicating a national GP bulk billing rate above 70%.

But Mr Sullivan believes the slight increase will not arrest the burden on families.

"This is good news for those being bulk billed but for those being charged the average fees have escalated by 16 percent over the last year," he said. "This means that people on meagre incomes and families where children have not been bulk billed are on average paying over $15 a visit."

"This two tiered approach to Medicare cover will only further erode the capacity for average families to keep up with the escalating costs of health care."

Aside from investment in Medicare, the set of policies challenge parties to value older Australians and introduce a "medicare Seniors Plus" that would apply to people 75 and over (55 and over for Indigenous Australians) to ensure access to surgical and medical care within appropriate care and timeframe benchmarks.

Other policy priorities included in the CHA package are:

Improve rural and regional health access

Meet the needs of people with cancer and increase palliative care services and support

Improve the effectiveness of the 30% private health insurance rebate by ensuring health fund premium increases are passed on to meet the real cost increases of private hospitals

Face up to the real impact of dementia in our community and invest accordingly in research, treatment and support options

Fund the real costs of aged care

Address the major inequities in capital funding for residential aged care

Time to extend bulk billing incentives (Catholic Health Australia 27/8/04)
CHA 2004 Election Guide

Catholic Health Australia
On for young and old in health (The Australian 30/8/04)
Labor promises $500m for hospitals (AAP/National Nine News 29/8/04)
Pressure for mental health boost mounts (The West Australian 30/8/04)
Health, education and trust the keys to country's future (The Age 30/8/04)
Health contest closer but still Labor's issue (Sydney Morning Herald 30/8/04)
Friday forum: Tony Abbott, Federal Health Minister; Julia Gillard, Labor Health Spokeswoman (ABC TV Lateline 27/8/04)
Bulk-billing cuts costs - but only for some (The Age 28/8/04)
Gillard says core election issue will be Howard honesty (The Sunday Age 29/8/04)
Aged care an issue (Stawell Times-News 27/8/04)
Aged care plan a bandaid solution: Opposition (ABC 26/8/04)

30 Aug 2004