||Issue No. 177||09 May 2003|
Joining The Dots
Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
Rebates Thorn in Medicare Side
That’s the view of frustrated Canterbury GP, Con Costa, who is challenging political parties to face up to the threat posed by the Federal Government’s Health Insurance Rebate.
"The problem is simple," he says. "This Government has given away $10 billion over the last five years. If we keep doing that we will bury the public health system, it won't survive.
"At the moment, the issue is not about money, the money exists, we have got to the point where we have to decide whether we use it to save public health or prop up private insurance companies because, currently, that $10 billion is not even going into the private health system."
The Doctors Reform Society spokesman says that the only way any form of health will survive future cost surges is if a greater percentage is dedicated to primary care. A fact, that he says, is known to the Government and supported by OECD forecasts.
Proposed changes to bulk billing, he argues, will wreck that strategy, leaving the poorest and, often most ill, with "second class" access to primary care because doctors will not service the poor, on $25 from Medicare, to the extent they will service patients paying double that amount.
Costa calls proposals to lift chargeing restrictions on bulk billing doctors a "free hit" that will lead to a dual system of health care.
Costa was one of a number of speakers at Sydney's first Save Medicare rally last week, designed to build opposition to proposals that will be formalised in Peter Costello's budget.
The rest of the movement is not as adamant as Costa about the centrality of private health care rebates which totalled $2.3 billion in the last financial year.
Spokesman Shane O'Brien said it was Save Medicare's role to make the point that the money existed to maintain the system, rather than deal with the specifics of how it should be spent.
All speakers at the Save Medicare rally, though, were adamant that Prime Minister John Howard is taking Australia towards a privately-funded American-style system.
OECD statistics point out graphic differences, in costs and results, between health systems that are predominantly private or state.
It's figures for the year 2000 showed that the Australian health system, 72.4 percent publicly funded, out-performed the US system which derived only 44.3 percent of its income from the state.
Australia had 30 percent more acute beds available, per capita, a 36.6 percent lower infant mortality rate and life expectancy more than two years higher than the US. On the other hand, health cost the US 13 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) against 8.3 percent in Australia.
For that, more than 40 million Americans, including six million children, had no health care cover at all.
Some of the indicators were even more dramatic for other developed countries where the state contributed a greater share of the total cost than Australia. France, 76 percent, had the lowest infant mortality rate and, Germany 75.1 percent offered 6.4 acute care beds. Britain, where the public share of health care stood at 81 percent, contributed the lowest percentage of GDP, 7.3 percent.
Life expectancy in all four state-dominant countries was higher than in the US.
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