Labor welcomes the Turnbull Government’s decision to shelve its unfair and flawed changes to the Medicare Safety Nets.
Today’s announcement is a vindication of Labor’s decision to stand firm against the plan to rip another $267 million off patients.
It is also a victory for the hundreds and hundreds of families who have emailed members of parliament in recent days with their deeply personal stories of how the government’s proposed changes would hurt them.
In an astonishing admission, the minister has blamed herself for this latest health debacle, declaring “I was unwilling to compromise…”.
The minister is right to blame herself as her government has had over 18 months to get this legislation right, but refused to listen to the mountains of evidence against her plans, and then tried to rush the changes through at the last minute.
The proposed changes to the Medicare Safety Nets were announced in the 2014 Budget, but not brought before the parliament for another 18 months, allowing less than three weeks to get this highly contested legislation through both houses of parliament.
The evidence against the legislation in a recent Senate report 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 providers 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”.
A dissenting report by Labor members on the government-dominated committee enquiring into the bill makes clear the legislation cannot proceed in its current form and will be damaging to patients.
“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 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 made clear we were prepared to discuss sensible reforms, we could not support this unfair and flawed legislation in its original form.
The minister should now go back to the drawing board, consult with the experts and those affected by any proposed changes, and hold a proper inquiry into the Medicare Safety Nets, which would have Labor’s full support.