House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Matters of Public Importance

Health Care

3:40 pm

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am pleased that the member for Throsby—the gift that keeps giving—raised unemployment in Bass. At the time of the 2013 election, unemployment in Bass was 8.6 per cent; right now it is 6.6 per cent, after two and a bit years of this government. So thank you for bringing attention to that, Member for Throsby; yet another own goal.

While the shadow health spokesperson spreads yet more misinformation and scare campaigns, Minister Ley, the member for Farrer, and the Tasmanian health minister, Michael Ferguson, are working to clean up Labor's health mess.

Ms King interjecting

I know that no-one does feigned indignation like the member for Ballarat, but the problem for her and Labor is that the Australian people have very long memories. They know that, when it comes to spending on policy priorities, Labor consistently over promised but underdelivered—on the NBN, on defence, on health, on education, and on too many other policy areas to mention. They know that the member for Ballarat flutters in the wind when it comes to health policy. One day the shadow spokesperson acknowledges the problems in our health system; the next she denies them. Consider a Sky News Agenda interview on 22 February 2015, when the member for Ballarat said: 'The opposition would be kidding itself if it did not recognise there were challenges in the budget and that savings needed to be found. There is no area that is going to be exempt. We have to look across the board.' The Australian people see this inconsistency clearly.

She should also reflect on the fact that the Australian people have long memories. They know, for example, the true pain of Labor's deep cuts to the private health insurance rebate. People in my electorate of Bass are amongst more than 10 million Australians who have some form of private health insurance. They know that during six years of Labor and Labor-Greens government the attacks on provide health insurance policyholders were relentless. Cutting funds, means-testing—and this is despite 5.6 million of those people with private health insurance having incomes under $50,000 a year. Three point four million of those people have incomes less than $35,000 a year.

Labor broke promise after promise on health insurance, putting the sector under significant pressure and creating uncertainty. And the member for Ballarat has the audacity to talk about records on health spending. With the Labor-Greens government health spending hit a record low. Patients and health funds are left to pick up the pieces. What happened to Kevin Rudd's promise in 2008 to 'end the blame game'? He said he would take over hospitals by 2009, yet hospital costs today are growing, because of your mismanagement, at three times the rate of GDP.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report in 2013-14 showed that health expenditure in Australia under Labor and the Greens fell from 43.7 per cent nationally in 2003-04 to 41.2 per cent in 2013-14—the lowest in a decade. Australians know it was the Labor Party that introduced the freeze on MBS indexation when they were in government. In fact, when Labor introduced this measure that they are now arguing against, the then health minister Tanya Plibersek said: 'Doctors earn enough money to bear the federal government's controversial freeze on MBS rebates. I understand GPs have all sorts of expenses in running their surgeries and employing staff and so on, but the average billing from Medicare is more than $350,000 a year.' I can go on with example after example of health mismanagement at strategic and tactical levels under the Labor and Labor-Greens government.

The John L Grove centre in my electorate of Bass was opened with much fanfare before the 2013 election. The Giddings Labor government accepted $4.7 million in federal funding from Julia Gillard to build the centre, and then the state government put no money in the budget for its ongoing running costs. I found out in 2014 that this new centre was about to close but, thankfully, through my advocacy former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and I were able to announce last May that the coalition would provide $10 million to secure the John L Grove centre's future to mid-2017.

I say again to the Labor Party: spare us your sanctimony, your hypocrisy and your feigned outrage. Join us in optimising our health system to eliminate waste and afford the new drugs we need for the future. Labor created this mess. It is the Turnbull government's intention to fix it.

Comments

Tibor Majlath
Posted on 11 Feb 2016 6:32 pm (Report this comment)

Yes, Mr. Nikolic some of us have a long memory. I still remember long ago when private health insurance premiums were going up because not enough people used private health. The Health spokesman for the Industry said the government should do something to encourage people to take up private health insurance as this will reduce the burden on the public system.

In 1999 John Howard introduced the scheme which provided a 30% subsidy to anyone who can afford private health insurance. This generous carrot had a stick with which those who did not take up the option were penalized with 2% increase per year in premiums. You only found out about this if and when the stick was applied. The backslapping over the carrot was more rampant. I still remember the taxpayer funded "Run For Cover" advertising campaign.

After the rebate came in the Health industry said premiums had to rise because too many people were now using the system. Just by how much? We never found out.

From 2000-2008, premiums kept rising from 40% to 220% against the CPI rate. (Source: Parliamentary Library estimates)

Today, nothing has changed. The 2015, All groups CPI, seasonally adjusted figure is 1.7% for Dec Qtr 2014 to Dec Qtr 2015 (Source : ABS) For the 2015 premium round premiums are set to increase from a minimum 3.98% to a maximum of 7.92% under a CPI of 1.7%. That is, 134% to 366% against the CPI. The industry weighted average premium increase is 6.18% and it represents 264% over the CPI. The calculation is based on the forecast contribution income for the insurer for the 12 month period following the implementation of the changes, excluding forecast changes in membership, and including rate protection. (Source: Department of Health)

No wonder Labor couldn't help tinkering with the rebate. Under the means test the size of the government subsidy begins to reduce for individuals earning over $88,000 and families earning over $176,000. The rebate cuts out altogether once individuals earn over $136,000 and families over $272,000. So, why babble on about the 5.6 miilion with incomes under $50,000 per year? How were the people on less than $35,000 income per year affected? If Labor cuts spending that's not on if the LNP cuts family benefits then that is budget repair. What about introducing a $7 co-payment for budget repair?

Labor abolished the 30 per cent rebate from the Lifetime Health Cover PENALTY paid by one million Australians who took out health cover after their 30th birthday. Labor also indexed the ­rebate to the CPI, not the health inflation or premium increase rate. Later, the LNP reversed that shifty so-called reform. Labor's fiddling with funding was much the same as the LNP tying school funding increases to the CPI after 2018 in order to stabilize budget expenditure. Please. Both sides are to blame. No wonder the finances are in such a mess.

Tibor Majlath
Posted on 11 Feb 2016 6:58 pm (Report this comment)

CORRECTION:

I unfairly asked how were the people on low incomes affected?

I should have stated that the CPI indexation would have left everyone's premiums at 2014 levels thanks to Labor. And the Industry would have found it impossible to make increased profits.

That indexation will also apply to the LNP's school funding from 2018.