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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Medicare rorting « Previous | |Next »
April 16, 2005

The fallout from the Howard Government's Medicare safety backlip continues about commitments that were:


The anger and criticism is justified because the Howard Government knew about the cost of the safety net, and that it would be extensively used by the middle class going to see the specialist. They were prepared to wear the cost and they trusted the specialists to do the right thing.

I mentioned here that all the fuss being made about economic responsiblity, economcially sustainable health system, the broken promises, the lack of political credibility and the bucket loads of deceit and spin obscures the real issue whichis what is being ignored: the open rorting of Medicare by the specialists.

Well The Australian carries a report of the rorting by Adam Cresswell. Cresswell says that a medical specialist has accused his fellow specialists of fuelling the safety net blowout by charging hundreds and even thousands of dollars extra to the scheme - a direct challenge to the Government's claims that medical bills are not rising.

In a rare example of a doctor breaking ranks, the specialist said he knew of one case in which a doctor planning a patient's breast reconstruction surgery had charged $5000 for a preliminary consultation that was normally bulk-billed.

The operation itself, which normally cost $5000, was then peformed for just $10 - a reversal of charging practice that ensured the vast bulk of the fee came under the safety net scheme. Because the safety net covers out-of-hospital costs but not in-hospital costs such as operations, the arrangement meant the patient could have recouped up to 80per cent of her out-of-pocket charges from the safety net.

Rorting is common practice, not an isolated example, and its existence is well known in policy circles. It often takes the form of increasing the (AMA-recommended) fee for a consultation of $130, to multiples of that ($500) as a way of transferring the in-hospital gaps on to the safety net.

This corruption highlights the flaw in current health policy that is not being addressed.

A lot of commentary repeats the Treasury line that:

"...the overriding aim of health policy should be to control demand - and its impact on the price of services. How else are governments to have any hope of managing soaring costs driven by escalating patient expectations?"

Given this kind of economic reasoning what is suprising is the silence of the Howard Government, the AMA and the ALP about this rorting, even though the Health Insurance Commission, which administers Medicare, has issued warnings to some specialists about their obsene behaviour.

If you were serious about containing costs, then you would seek to remove the rorting of crony capitalism in which a trade union has captured the Canberra Health bureaucracy and runs health policy. So I'll repeat my charge.

Both the Howard Government and the ALP lack the political courage to take on the AMA and clip its trade union wings.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:04 PM | | Comments (0)