12 February 2012
The Federal Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton said today fear that cuts to private health insurance rebates would reduce health services in New England applied equally to the electorate of Lyne.
Mr Dutton said that concerns expressed by the Member for New England Tony Windsor today were well founded.
Mr Windsor said he expected to vote against the Gillard Government’s cuts to the rebates because if they came into effect private hospital services and specialist services would be adversely affected.
Mr Dutton said he welcomed Mr Windsor’s words and shared his concerns which were strong grounds to oppose the Government’s legislation.
“If private hospital and specialist services are under threat in New England equally they will be under threat in Lyne.”
“Clearly workers in private healthcare in Lyne are concerned given their protest on Saturday.”
Mr Dutton appealed to the Member for Lyne Rob Oakeshott to carefully consider the impact the Gillard Government’s plans to means test and phase out the 30 per cent rebates for those with private health insurance could have on local services.
“Mr Windsor worries that it might discourage specialists from coming to country areas, Mr Oakeshott should hold similar concerns.”
“The Coalition has long been worried about the particular impact on regional areas.”
But he said the Government proposals would hit all Australians as people dropped their private health cover to rely on public hospitals for their treatment.
“Less people being treated in private hospitals means more people being treated in public hospitals – the system just gets more stressed – waiting times for surgery and in emergency departments get longer.”
Mr Dutton said the Gillard Government claimed only a few high income earners will be impacted by its means tests, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
“When people are dropping their coverage the insurance pool shrinks, those that a 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 40,000 residents of Lyne held some form of private health insurance with policies covering 52,000 people.
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
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.
Excerpt from Network Ten – Meet the Press
TONY WINDSOR: ….. The issue that I have always been banging on about is the impact of the private hospitals and specialists within those private hospitals – the impact that they would have if there was a reduction in the rebate. Those same specialists do work in the public system. I’m talking specifically about country areas here. It won’t make any difference in the city – no difference at all. We have to be very careful that we don’t discourage specialists from coming to country areas. Whether we like it or not, one of the incentives for those people coming to country areas is, in fact, the private health system and the rebate arrangements.