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Issue #1675      March 4, 2015

Hands off Medicare

The Abbott government is determined to introduce a co-payment, in one form or another. Its aim is to destroy bulk billing. The co-payment might start at $5, already beyond the reach of many people on low incomes, but would gradually rise just as uni fees and the PBS charges for prescriptions have. It may commence in the form of means testing, with eligibility requirements gradually becoming tougher. The aim of the proposed reduction in the rebate paid by Medicare to doctors is to force them to charge fees and create a gap between what is paid by the patient and what Medicare refunds.

Photo: Anna Pha

It will be a burden for all Australians, but a nightmare especially for those currently having difficulty to access GP services and who have little choice but to call the ambulance and go to the hospital for basic care needs – the frail elderly, mentally ill, the dying and those with a chronic illness – unless they can afford expensive private health insurance in a future privatised system.

The only winners would be the private health insurance funds who could then step in to take over Medicare/primary health care, initially to cover the gap and eventually a totally privatised and Americanised health system.

The Communist Party of Australia supports the expansion of Medicare , in particular primary health care as the basis of the health system. This would not only result in better health outcomes but save considerable amount of money by preventing disease and addressing problems at an earlier stage.

The CPA supports a national health system with high quality and “free” at point of delivery care, according to need rather than ability to pay.

The CPA stands for a health care system that first and foremost meets the needs of working class Australians and marginalised and disadvantaged groups, especially Indigenous Australians, in their local communities, local health clinics and local hospitals. We strongly oppose the introduction of a co-payment or means testing of access to Medicare or free public hospital treatment.

Our health policy is for a nationalised health system with local control with the following features:

  • Accessible quality medical and dental treatment for all Australians, bulkbilled under Medicare, centrally funded through progressive forms of taxation and focused on the needs of working Australians and their families, the elderly and the sick.
  • A public health scheme providing a quality primary care system with GPs, nurses, allied and community health working together, must become our frontline for maintaining people’s well-being with emphasis on preventing disease, including early detection of illness.
  • Team based care focused on early intervention and providing care in the community and in the home.
  • Priority on preventative medical services including campaigns by governments to educate people about healthy lifestyles, the importance of vaccinations, regular tests and check-ups. Preventive medicine should also encompass restrictions on corporate advertising and on the production and sale of unhealthy products.
  • End to the privatisation of Australia’s health system and, in the meantime, an immediate end to the wasteful private health insurance rebate which is driving further privatisation of Australia’s health system and which will lead to rationing of health care for those who need it and means-testing of public hospitals.

The CPA supports an expanded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) so that all effective medications remain affordable for all Australians. PBS scripts should be free for all unemployed, pensioners and other card holders and the cost for others reduced. We support the development of our own publicly owned pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Australia should withdraw from agreements which prohibit such production and not sign new ones, in particular the Trans Pacific Partnership.

We cannot wait for a nationalised health system to improve primary health care. Our public hospitals are under extreme pressure right now. As a minimum the federal government must immediately increase its share of public hospital budgets to the 50 percent which existed prior to the Howard government.

Improvement of the public system in outer suburban, rural and remote areas with measures put in place to ensure the health system caters first and foremost for working families and the sick and the elderly in these communities.

We support a system of generous workers’ compensation benefits for all injured workers and their families and strong health and safety rules in the workplace to prevent worker injury in the first place.

A system of expanded and well-funded aged care, including adequate numbers of properly trained nurses in aged care. Support services must be in place to assist those elderly who choose to remain at home or those with chronic illness or terminal cancer who want to die at home.

Workers and local communities should have a say on where their health facilities are placed and how they are managed – including having a voice on local hospital boards.

Mental health services require urgent expansion.

Funding increases for people with disability should be brought forward and services provided by the public sector.

Next article – Education – Where we stand

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