Health Department officials have today confirmed the government’s broken promise on Medicare Locals has cost taxpayers nearly $57 million.
And, in a clear sign of the confusion caused by the decision, ongoing legal action continues to prevent their replacements from using the name “Primary Health Networks”.
In the 2013 election then Liberal Leader Tony Abbott gave a cast iron promise during the Rooty Hill People’s Debate that “we are not shutting any Medicare Locals”.
Just weeks later his government moved to shut all 61 Medicare locals, and replace them with 31 Primary Health Networks.
Today, after nearly two years of refusing to answer Labor’s questions on the cost of this broken promise, the bill has finally been made public, with Health Department officials telling Senate Estimates “$44 million is the total cost of winding up the Medicare Local program.”
In fact, $44 million was not the total cost, as this is in addition to a further $12.9 million spent on establishment costs for the new PHNS, bringing the total cost of the broken promise on Medicare Locals to $56.9 million.
That is $56.9 million of valuable health dollars spent on breaking contracts and wind up and establishment costs, with not a single cent of this money benefitting patients.
At a time when this government has ripped more than $60 billion out of health, and is defending its billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare on the grounds that it needs to cut health spending, blowing almost $60 million of scarce health on paying for a broken promise is an absolute disgrace.
This in spite of the fact officials confirmed that the majority of the new PHNs were effectively rebadged PHNs.
In a further embarrassment, Primary Health Networks are still being advised NOT to call themselves Primary Health Networks because of ongoing legal action over the name, with departmental officials advising the committee “we’ve advised them they should use the term PHN in their material.”
The Medicare Local debacle confirms, yet again, the Liberals cannot ever be trusted with health, and only Labor can be trusted to defend Medicare.