The ACTU called on the opposition parties to save Medicare and reject the Federal Government’s attempt to destroy bulk billing when a Senate committee considers the Government’s health package today.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow says the Government’s insidious MedicarePlus measures do nothing to address the key health care issue facing Australia, the decline in bulk billing, which has fallen to 67.4% of GP consultations.

‘The Howard Government is hell bent on dismantling Medicare. They want a two-tier system where quality and access is determined by what you can pay. Under the Government’s proposed package a working family with children will face up to $1000 a year in extra costs for what were, and should be, free bulk billed visits to the doctor,’ she said.

‘Working people already pay for Medicare through the Medicare levy and their general taxes. They should not have to pay a third time because John Howard is determined to dismantle bulk billing.”

Sharan Burrow says that at a time when Australia can afford a better public health system – with a federal budget surplus for last year of $7.5 billion- the Howard Government has chosen to make life harder for working families.

‘What the Government is really proposing is a greater financial burden on Australian families, further increases in waiting lists and more crowded emergency departments because of its failure to tackle the decline in bulk-billing,’ she said.

‘The opposition parties in the senate face an important choice. Health is central to our quality of life and Australians want a universal health care system. They should stand up and defend a Medicare that the Australian public cherishes and reject the Government’s third rate alternative.’