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18 November 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd needs to end the cataract rebate bungle which has two of his Ministers taking diametrically opposed positions.On one hand Health Minister Nicola Roxon has slashed Medicare rebates for cataract surgery by almost 50 per cent saying technology now made the operation cheaper - yet on the other hand the Veteran Affairs Minister has increased rebates from existing levels.
Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing Peter Dutton today called on the Prime Minister to declare which position he and his Government supported.Mr Dutton said to date Mr Rudd had shown he was blind to the harmful impacts the divergent policies were having on mostly senior Australians.“Health Minister Nicola Roxon is punishing patients needing cataract surgery by making them pay hundreds of dollars more for treatment and yet the Veterans Affairs Minister is implementing an increased rebate for veterans to undergo surgery as initiated by the Howard Government which made sure veterans’ health needs would always be met – as they should be,” Mr Dutton said.
“Veterans deserve first class health care, but so too do senior Australians who are now being hurt by the Rudd Government.”“Both Ministers cannot be right.”
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Administration Senator Mathias Cormann said the Rudd Government’s hypocrisy on the rebate issue had been highlighted by the fact that DVA now paid $1,291.75 for cataract surgery while the Health Minister had cut rebates for most people to $340.80.Senator Cormann said the Prime Minister needed to sort out the mess.
“Nicola Roxon argues that ‘greedy’ doctors are being paid too much for this treatment and then proceeds to slug patients with extra costs.”“This Government doesn’t seem to care who gets hurt by its ill-thought out policies,” Senator Cormann said.
Senator Cormann said Veteran’s Affairs had negotiated with doctors to determine the costs associated with cataract treatment, while the Health Minister refused to consult with ophthalmologists.
Mr Dutton said the Rudd Government should immediately restore the Medicare rebate to its previous level of more than $600 and stop hurting senior Australians for whom treatment meant continuing a normal life.
The Coalition has warned it again will disallow the Health Minister’s cut to patient rebates, if the Government refused to come to its senses.
Media Contact – John Wiseman – 0429 983 618
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