Almost 18 months after it was first announced, the Turnbull Government has today finally brought before Parliament its proposed cuts to the Medicare Safety Net.
Health organisations had expected to see the bill shortly after the 2014 Budget, but the proposals were put on hold until after the Canning by-election, leaving just three weeks of sittings before the changes are due to come into effect on 1 January 2016.
Labor will now carefully consider the legislation, and I welcome the minister’s offer to consult with Labor, and look forward to receiving a comprehensive briefing on the detail of the bill from officials from the Department of Health.
Labor is concerned about the impact of the changes on mental health with psychiatrists and psychotherapists warning “a significant group of high need patients who require consultation with their psychiatrist more than once a week will lose the appropriate level of support provided by the current Safety Net arrangements. Many of these patients are poor and unable to work as a consequence of illness, and the intensive psychiatric help that they urgently need to re-build their lives will be lost under the new Safety Net.”
Radiation oncologists have warned the proposed changes could double out of pocket expenses for cancer patients.
The Medicare Safety Nets were introduced in recognition that some patients need greater access to medical services, especially vulnerable groups like those with serious and costly medical issues at different times in their lives.
Labor will carefully scrutinise the proposed legislation to ensure they do not adversely affects these vulnerable patients.