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Health: ALP collapses? « Previous | |Next »
August 26, 2004

The Howard Government's approach to health is not quite as bad as this:


Extending the increase in the bulkbilling rates to the suburbs in the major cities was not bribery. It was good policy, given the low rates of bulkbilling there. That move had placed out of bounds in the MedicarePlus negotations between Tony Abbott and the 4 cross bench senators earlier this year. The extension was needed. It is to be applauded.

What was missing from MedicarePlus was a shift to funding quality health care based on 15 minute appointments, rather than a 6 minute tick and flick bulkbilled health care.

Abbott's recent extensions to the private health insurance rebate (from 30 per cent to 35 per cent for those aged 65 to 69 and 40 per cent for people over 70) Abbott has managed to box the ALP into accepting the private health insurance rebate. The ALP now lacks the courage of its convictions to stand firm on its previous policy of abolishing the rebate to defend a universal Medicare.

All that the ALP currently says is that it will not let the recent Band-Aid changes through the Senate. My bet is the ALP will blow all hot and passionate before the Senate cameras about the rebate whilst quietly letting Abbott's changes through.

Does not that low target strategy tacitly endorse a two-tier system that entrenches distinctions between those with private insurance and those without? Does that not mean the ALP is supporting the present size of the private sector with huge outlays of taxpayer money? Where is the equity there?

So it goes along with the myth fostered by the Howard Government that the 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance offered to the middle class to encourage them take out private health insurance are in fact designed to strengthen Medicare. The reality is that the rebate is funded by starving Medicare and the public hospital system of around $2.4 billion.

Is the ALP planning to allow people to flow back to Medicare as the cost of private insurance increases faster than inflation when it regains the Treasury benches?

What the politics of health means at the moment is that Howard is able to fight on the ALP's own ground. The ALP's historic advantage of being trusted by Australians to ensure better health outcomes for them has been squared.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)