Government Senators have today fallen into line to back Malcolm Turnbull’s plans to rip $270 million from the Medicare Safety Net, despite conceding the legislation is flawed and needs amending and reviewing.
“Labor Senators are especially concerned by the likely impact on patients needing ongoing access to psychiatrists, cancer patients and those accessing assisted reproductive technology services, and the Government’s lack of attention on addressing these impacts."
Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee,
Health Insurance Amendment (Safety Net) Bill 2015
The evidence against the legislation was damning.
- The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners warned of “significant concerns that the proposed changes will leave all patients with greater out-of-pocket costs".
- The Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network warned the changes could have a dangerous impact on sex abuse victims. "This might have serious associated risks to their lives and might severely interfere with their real chance of recovery.”
- The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists told the inquiry the College is:“… very concerned about the impact that the proposed new Medicare Safety Net will have on vulnerable people with mental illness who require long-term intensive psychotherapy”.
- Radiation and oncology provider GenesisCare warned the changes proposed by the Turnbull Government will, “on average more than double patient out-of-pocket costs for radiotherapy”.
- The Department of Health admitted that “based on the current arrangements certainly for assisted reproductive technology our analysis says that the second and further cycles may leave a patient around $850 out of pocket”.
While Labor will support sensible reforms to simplify and improve the Medicare Safety Nets we are concerned this is money being taken from patients and once again, not being put back directly into care for disadvantaged communities.
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.
While Labor is happy to discuss sensible reforms, the Liberals’ changes could adversely impact some of the most needy and vulnerable patients and we do not support the legislation in its current form.