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25 November 2009

The Senate today disallowed the Rudd Government’s savage cuts to Medicare rebates for cataract surgery for a second time.

The disallowance again forces the Rudd Government to confront its ill-conceived decision to make cataract surgery more expensive for patients.

The Government now faces the choice to continue to cause fear for elderly Australians who need cataract treatment or to end their anxiety by raising the rebate to its previous payment.

All crossbench Senators and the Coalition supported the disallowance motion which prevents the Rudd Government slashing rebates to cataract patients by 46 per cent or hundreds of dollars.

The disallowance came after the Rudd Government again rejected an opportunity to restore rebates to their previous level.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon told Parliament late yesterday that the Government would not accept legislative amendments that would reverse Budget measures that massively reduced Medicare rebates for cataract surgery from $623 to $340.

Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton said the Government should be condemned for its intransigence.

“The Government is standing by an ill-conceived Budget measure that is hurting Australians – mostly seniors – by making an important medical treatment unaffordable,” Mr Dutton said.

“Commonsense tells the Government that its actions are counter-productive.”

Mr Dutton said people who needed cataract surgery and could no longer afford it would cost the health system more through flow-on problems associated with poor eyesight.

He said at no time had the Health Minister produced any evidence to back her claims that the rebate cuts were justified because technology had made cataract surgery ‘quicker, cheaper, easier’.

The Shadow Minister pointed out that while Ms Roxon was pushing ahead with drastically lower rebate payments for most seniors, the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs was increasing rebates for cataract treatment for veterans.

“The Minister’s positions are diametrically opposed and that’s yet to be explained by the Rudd Government.”

Mr Dutton said the Minister had been warned in early September that her rebate reductions would not be accepted by the Senate and it was time she stopped playing games with people’s eyesight and health.

“It’s time the Prime Minister stepped in and took over from his bungling Minister,” Mr Dutton said.

Media Contact – John Wiseman – 0429 983 618


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