||Issue No. 175||24 April 2003|
Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Unions: The Royal Con
National Focus: Around the Grounds
Economics: The Secret War on Trade
International: United Front
History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
The Locker Room
Success Breeds Contempt
Join the Dots
Medicare Bombshell – Bosses To Pay
ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Australian unions were “loathe” to write health costs into employment contracts but would be under pressure to do so if the Prime Minister restricted free bulk billing under Medicare.
"Howard's attack on Medicare will Americanise our health system," Burrow said.
"The cost of medical insurance in the US accounts for up to 20 percent of the wages bill. No Australian employer will want to see unions bargaining for medical cover, US style, but if we go down the American track, we will be forced to look at an American response."
The ACTU estimates average working families could be forced to pay between $300 and $500 extra per year for previously bulk billed GP visit and pathology tests under Federal Government plans.
Burrow said Australian unions were committed to Medicare as a universal insurance scheme.
"Our members have a significant investment in Medicare and free bulk billing as critical elements of the social wage for which, historically, pay claims have been moderated. If Medicare is to be undermined, however, we will have no alternative but to look to wage negotiations to cover the extra costs."
Burrow was responding to reports that next month's budget will introduce a co-payment of as much as $20 for doctor's visits, allowing general practitioners to receive the Medicare subsidy while, for the first time, billing patients on top.
Howard will make his proposal conditional on doctors ensuring visits by pensioner card holders and low income earners remain free.
Critics say that would effectively scupper the universality of Medicare and make it a safety net for the poor.
Unions have pledged to resist that scenario with the ACTU organsing a Medicare Summit to unite unions, politicians, health, church and community groups against the Government agenda.
The summit will be held in Melbourne on May 2. Labor Party leader Simon Crean has already confirmed his attendance, as have representatives of the Democrats and Greens, ACCOSS and health sector unions.
Medicare has always sat awkwardly with a Coalition Government strongly opposed to any social control of the market.
In fact, as Leader of the Opposition, Howard was a vigorous and outspoken critic of the scheme. He labelled Medicare an "unmitigated disaster" and promised "changes to Medicare which amount to its de facto dismantling...we'll pull it right apart."
Feds Fail Public Hospitals Test
The Federal Government has failed to meet the demands of the states for significant extra health funding, the Health Services Union of Australia said today.
HSUA national secretary Craig Thomson was reacting to the Commonwealth's first proposal for new healthcare agreements which fund public hospitals. He said the offer also failed to commit to necessary reforms of the health system.
"Healthworkers want to know not only that enough extra money is being put in the system but that areas of serious concerns are being addressed such as helping the thousands of people waiting in hospitals because there is not enough nursing home beds," he said.
"Ifmore and more families are not able to find a bulk billing doctor they will head to emergency departments in increasing numbers for treatment. We don't want the federal government to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
''The integration between the public and private health systems also needs to be better. Private hospitals should be able to offer more services which would help reduce the strain on public hospitals such as their own emergency departments."
Mr Thomson said that the Federal Government needed to address the concerns of the different states about shortfalls in the funding offered by the Commonwealth.
But it was also up to the states to commit to putting in enough money to ensure that the health system in Australia remains among the best in the world.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online