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12 February 2012    

Andrew Wilkie’s and Rob Oakeshott’s decisions this week on whether to support or oppose means testing of private health insurance rebates are critical for half the Australian population.

They are yet to declare their final positions on the Gillard Government’s legislation to means test the 30 per cent rebates which make health insurance affordable for many Australians.

The Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton today appealed to both MPs to carefully consider the information before them because if the Government succeeded there would be severe implications for the public and private health care sectors, particularly in regional areas.

“Their fellow Independent Tony Windsor said today that he was worried cuts to the rebate could see health professionals, particularly specialists, withdraw from practice in regional Australia and that was a big factor in his likely rejection of the legislation.”

Mr Dutton said Mr Windsor’s concerns and evaluation of the impact of changes to the rebates was sound judgement and as Mr Windsor said good reason for him to vote against the Government legislation.

“The Coalition shares Mr Windsor’s worries that rebate cuts will impact on regional health services.”

“Both Mr Oakeshott and Mr Wilkie need to take such issues into consideration. Health workers showed their concerns at a protest in Mr Oakeshott’s Lyne electorate at the weekend and Mr Wilkie knows full well Tasmania’s health care system is already in crisis.”

Mr Dutton said the independents should not rely upon information provided to them by the Gillard Government which would say and do anything to reach its political ends.

“Mr Wilkie knows the Prime Minister lied to him about poker machine reform and betrayed him on that issue.”

“Why would he now trust information put to him by this Government on private health insurance?”

Mr Dutton said the numbers to rely upon came from the health funds – “they know the numbers better than anyone else.”

“The Gillard Government tells the Independents only a few high income earners will be impacted by its means tests – nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mr Dutton said on the Government’s own numbers around 30,000 people would quit private health insurance, but independent analysis says its likely to be hundreds of thousands adding up to more than one million over several years.

More than 2.4 million health fund members will face immediate premium increases up to 43 per cent if the means tests are introduced.

“When people are dropping their coverage the insurance pool shrinks those that are left face higher premiums. Higher premiums make insurance unaffordable for more people, they drop their coverage and premiums rise again – it’s a vicious circle,” Mr Dutton said.

Mr Dutton said half the 11 million Australians with private health insurance have incomes less than $50,000; three million have annual household incomes under $35,000.

“Mr Oakeshott and Mr Wilkie need to consider these people as they reach their decisions on this crucial legislation.


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