The ALP simply hates private health insurance
Make no mistake about it. The battle to preserve Australia’s mix of public and private health care will be joined in earnest this week.
At stake is a worsening of the shaky health of our public hospitals.
At stake also is a direct cost impact for almost half the population who have private health insurance and an indirect, or delayed, impact on those who rely on public hospitals for treatment.
Labor’s attack on private health insurance through this year’s Budget will force substantial numbers of people to drop or downgrade their insurance coverage meaning many, many more people will be seeking treatment at public hospitals.
Longer waits in Accident and Emergency Departments, longer waits on lists for surgery lay ahead if this attack succeeds.
Nothing holds the potential to increase the stresses and strains on our hospitals more than the changes to private health insurance rebates contained in the erroneously named Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bills, which are expected to be debated in the Senate this week
Every decision Kevin Rudd has taken since coming to Government will make our public health system worse – making a mockery of his oft-repeated promise that he had a plan to “fix” the nation’s public hospitals.
There is no doubt that the health sector is paying a high price for Labor’s reckless spending over the past nine months which has the nation spinning into massive debt.
The Government has targeted many areas of health to claw-back savings, but the targeting of private health insurance rebates carries the added factor of ideology – Labor hates private health insurance - and this is a serious direct attack upon it.
It is also a trashing of numerous promises both Mr Rudd and his now Health Minister Nicola Roxon made before the last election - to both the public and the insurance sector - that Labor would not change these rebates paid to those who take out private health insurance and in so doing relieve the call on public hospitals.
The phasing down of the universal 30 per cent rebate, in three stages, to 20 per cent, 10 per cent and eventually to zero for those earning over $75,000 (singles) and $150,000 (families or couples) will mean 1.7 million Australians will immediately face private health insurance premium increases of between 14 and 43 per cent.
One million people are likely to drop or downgrade their insurance cover forcing premium increases for all who maintain insurance.
In seeking to cut the rebate to so-called higher income earners the Rudd Government will hammer low and middle income earners with higher prices.
It’s worth noting that a million people – one million Australians, probably many of them elderly – earning less than $26,000 a year make the struggle to pay for private health insurance.
Does it want them to also opt out of private insurance and join the queue at our public hospitals?
If so what impact could all this have?
The private health sector estimates it could transfer 75,000 treatment episodes from private to public health care.
Public hospitals will have to accommodate an extra 190,000 bed days at a cost of $200 million.
Four million allied health services would no longer be covered by insurance costing another $200 million.
Two million dental care treatments for which private insurance would have paid $100 million would also no longer be covered.
If those estimates even partially come to pass, it creates a huge hole in the $1.9 billion in savings Rudd Labor estimates it will make by changing the rebates.
It will also push our public hospitals further toward breaking point.
Reductions in Medicare rebates for cataract surgery and various other treatments, caps on the Extended Medicare Safety Net and the 2008 Budget changes to the Medicare Levy threshold all have implications for adding to pressures on the hospital system – the one that Kevin Rudd said he would “fix” by June this year.
The Coalition will oppose the private health insurance rebate cuts when they come before the Senate this week.
The savings needed by this Government to the nation’s bottom-line can be achieved in other ways.
The Coalition has proposed an increase in the excise on cigarettes that would more than cover the $1.9 billion in savings projected from the rebate changes.
Rudd Labor does not have to further threaten our public hospitals which its State Labor Governments have so dramatically mismanaged for far too many years.
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