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Issue #1713      December 2, 2015

Then – And Now

The Whitlam government had changed the nation when it introduced Medibank, the first time Australia had a free universal health care system. Though it had fierce opponents, the Whitlam government stood strong. The bill was rejected in the Senate twice. The opponents were from private health insurance companies which persuaded doctors to put up posters in their offices claiming that it was “a socialist takeover”. Defying all odds the bill passed on October 1, 1975.

The Coalition government of Malcolm Fraser dismantled the free universal, health care system and the Hawke Labor government brought it back in 1983 and renamed it Medicare.

But what has happened since 1983?

We can see that from the article “Defend Medicare, cancel the private insurance rebate” and our most recent article “Medicare privatisation at full tilt” that the attacks on our most prestigious universal system have been around since December 2, 1998, the similarities are endless and disappointing.

In December 1998 the Howard government‘s private insurance rebate practically gave $5 billion of Australian tax payers money to the private health insurance companies, which left our public hospitals neglected; $5 billion could have wiped out all hospital waiting lists and opened all hospital beds and wards and provided much needed new facilities in rural areas.

As stated in the 1998 article “imagine what $5 billion could do in restoring services and fulfilling the health care needs of all Australians”. Instead not one cent was used for the restoration of our public hospitals and services.

Though the situation has escalated even further as seen in our latest Guardians of November 11 and 18, the Turnbull government is paying $1 billion more to the private health insurance companies per year to keep the private hospitals sustainable. It sounds a warning that soon our rights to a free health care system will be handed to the private sector.

This will drastically change the quality of our health care services, with all decisions made by the private sector. Our interests will not be at the heart of the system; profit will come first.

So much for Australia’s government supporting our human rights.

Article 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

Though this only counts if you have money in the bank!

We need to defend our Medicare more than ever. We have been steered away from the path of progress, and it is evidently clear that our government isn’t intending to change.

Say no to the privatisation of Medicare!

This is the first of a regular column that will examine stories on various subjects in the Guardian archive and look at current developments in the same subject.

December 2, 1998

The Howard government’s tax rebate for private health insurance is the diversion of $5 billion of badly needed funding from the public health system. It will not result in one more hospital bed, not one more nurse or improvement to the health system. It is a cynical vote catching exercise, a gift to the private insurance companies. It is another step towards the privatisation of health care.

But the rebate cost is enough to open all the hospital beds and wards that have been closed plus provide new facilities in regional areas where they are needed.

Hospital waiting lists could be wiped.

The end result of the present policies would be privatisation of the health system with a residual Medicare – a public system for the poor, the chronically ill and the uninsured.

November 11, 2015

The federal government now has six different reviews into different aspects of the health system as it embarks upon a complete “revamp” of the system. The latest is a review of private health insurance. The government is hell bent on the destruction of Medicare and the privatisation of all health services – the Americanisation of Australia’s health care system.

The government is preparing to hand over the running of Medicare to the private for profit sector. The cost cutting is not to reduce the cost to people but to reduce government spending and for the benefit of the private for profit sector.

The cost of healthcare services is about to go through the roof. Accessibility and quality will be the casualties.”

Medicare is worth fighting for.

Next article – Dingo

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