Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Lies Abbott Tells - Part Nineteen


‘‘How can it be unconscionable for this Coalition government to propose a co-payment and it not be unconscionable for the Hawke government when it actually implemented a co-payment in the 1990s? [Tony Abbott quoted in St George & Sutherland Shire Leader, 16 May 2014]

Bob Hawke put a price signal into the system and what was good for Bob Hawke I think is fair enough for me and for this Government. [Tony Abbott quoted on the ABC PM program, 23 May 2014]

“It was actually Bob Hawke who gave us the co-payment (in the past),…If it’s all right for the Hawke government to bring a co-payment in … why isn’t it all right for this government to bring it in, in the Budget?” [Tony Abbott quoted in The Courier Mail, 23 May 2014]

Tony Abbott has urged Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to follow Bob Hawke's lead and support the $7 Medicare co- payment.
Citing the former prime minister's 1991 proposal to slap a $3.50 charge on bulk-billed visits to the doctor, the Prime Minister said Mr Hawke was the "father of the co-payment". [Tony Abbott quoted in The West Australian, 27 May 2014]

“Not only do we have Bob Hawke as the father of the co-payment, we’ve got the member for Jagajaga (Ms Macklin) as the mother of the co-payment. The real authors of the co-payment are over there’’ [Tony Abbott quoted in The Australian, 30 May 2014]


What Federal Coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott doesn’t say is that in 1969 the Gorton Coalition Government introduced a new Medical Benefits Scheme which included a co-payment by patients, with a maximum of $5 for any one service. However, there appeared to have been no legal obligation on doctors to charge the common fee (based on the fees most commonly charged for over 1,000 medical services) and it was alleged that costs to patients rose above the Consumer Price Index rate.

Nor does the Prime Minister mention the fact that the Hawke Labor Government’s co-payment was never going to be applied to concessional patients, while his own co-payment regime will be applied to the first ten concessional patient medical services in any year across 70% of the range of all medical services which might be used by these patients.

Absent also is mention of the fact that though the co-payment was policy it was never implemented and, because this payment was so unpopular with Labor MPs, the medical profession and voters, the Act was repealed three short months later.

As the following potted history reveals:

* Under the Hawke Government the HEALTH INSURANCE AMENDMENT ACT 1991 No. 171, 1991 became law by assent on 20 Nov 1991.

* Under this Act concession card holder patients were exempt from the $2.50 co-payment which came into effect on 1 December 1991.

* However, the GP visit co-payment was never actually implemented and the Act was formally repealed by the Keating Government in early March 1992.

* During the period the co-payment was apparently in effect for medical services other than those supplied by GPs, only an estimated 1.8 million individual medical services appeared to attract this co-payment.

* In its 2003-04 Budget (covering a period when Abbott was first Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and then Minister for Health and Ageingthe Howard Government  attempted to re-introduce co-payments for all services with an MBS number provided out of hospital for non-concessional patients, including GP consultations, pathology and diagnostic imaging services and, allowing GP’s to charge a patient ‘gap’ fee up-front to non-concessional patients, provided they agreed to bulk bill all concessional patients. How much that ‘gap’ fee would be was to be decided by the GP. However, the legislation was not passed by Parliament.

As for the Member for Jagajaga, Jenny Macklin, being the mother of the co-payment, on 26 May 2014 The Australian reported:

Asked by The Australian about her role, Ms Macklin told a Melbourne Institute function in Canberra this month that she had argued with the then head of the Department of Finance, Michael Keating, against the co-payment.
“I didn’t agree with it,” she said. “I didn’t agree with it then and I don’t agree with it now.’’
Dr Keating confirmed the debate with Ms Macklin and her opposition. “It’s worth nothing two things: first the Keating government immediately got rid of it; the second thing is … today co-payments in Australia for health are the third highest in the OECD.”

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