The Federal Governments watered-down Medicare changes announced today would still leave most working families out-of-pocket with substantial health costs, the ACTU said.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said that the changes do nothing to address the
decline in bulk billing, which has fallen to 67.4% of GP consultations, and
would still pave the way for an inequitable two-tier health system.

“The plan provides no incentives for bulk billing except for health
card holders and children. As a result, the steady decline in general
bulk-billing rates under the Howard Government is set to continue. More and more
average income earners will be forced to pay up front fees for GP visits,”
Mr Combet said.

“The planned new safety net will pay benefits to less than 5% of
families. Many working people cannot afford private health insurance so will
have to pay out-of-pocket costs in full.

“Forcing lower income families to pay $500 a year in health costs
before they are eligible for a single cent under the safety net will be unfair
in many cases.

“If people are bulk billed, they do not need a safety net. The
Government should rebuild buIk billing instead of replacing it with an unfair
and inadequate safety net.

”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 has dismantled bulk billing,” Mr Combet said.

“Australia can afford a better public health system – the federal
budget surplus for last year was $7.5 billion. The Government should properly
fund policies to rebuild bulk billing before implementing further
across-the-board tax cuts.”

The ACTU called on all non-Government Senators to ensure that bulk billing
was not further undermined by the Howard Government’s policies.

Unions and the ACTU will publicly campaign against the Government’s
dismantling of bulk billing in the lead up to the next federal election.