||Issue No. 204||21 November 2003|
Holes in the Net
Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Public Transport A Bit Rich
Nurses: MedicarePlus Points to America
Delegates representing NSW nurses from public hospitals, private hospitals, health care services and aged care facilites came to that conclusion after studying the details of MedicarePlus in Sydney this week.
Central to their argument is the threat posed by the Howard blueprint to the cornerstones of the original Medicare concept - universality.
"John Howard will have achieved his political goal of destroying Medicare as a universal, taxpayer-funded health care system if the Federal Parliament agrees to key features of his MedicarePlus changes," the nurses warned in a statement.
The nurses condemned the introduction of means testing for certain benefits and the idea of linking Medicare with a safety net.
They said Medicare was not established as a safety net but as a taxpayer-funded health system in which people are cared for on the basis or clinical need, irrespective of income or assets.
NSW Nurses Association secretary, Brett Holmes, said MedicarePlus attempted to camouflage the real intention of Government's policy.
"The step-by-step process being followed by Federal Government to dismantle Medicare is clear to nurses," Holmes said.
He said the steps were:
- building up the idea that a universal, taxpayer-funded health system was unsustainable and using that to devert billions to private insurance
- holding down the Medicare rebate so bulk-billing levels would fall
- accepting the decline in bulk-billing as inevitable and introducing a means-tested safety net in response.
"Once this is accepted," Holmes said, "Government can continue to hold down the Medicare rebate, wind back the so-called safety net and expand private health insurance so you end up with an American-style, two-tier system."
He warned the concepts of means testing and safety net would then be more easily applied to the hospital system.
Holmes said that, in a sense, the detail of the Medicare package was irrelevant.
"It is nothing but an appeal to sectional interests in an attempt to overturn a larger idea. It is that larger idea that is now well and truly the real issue."
The nurses' analysis reflected criticisms from the ACTU and Health Services Union.
"The Howard Government, for ideological reasons, has failed to tackle the problem of declining rates of bulk-billing," HSU secretary, Craig Thomson, said.
Research, he warned, showed that 1.2 million Australians said they would go to hospital accident and emergency departments rather than paying higher general practitioner costs.
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