Monday, 2 May 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. Does the Turnbull government remain committed to ripping $650 million out of Medicare payments for pathology and diagnostic imaging and increasing the out-of-pocket expenses for sick Australians?
I can indicate to the chamber that the government is not ripping money from patients—end of story. There has been a lot of miscommunication about this particular issue from those on the other side. First up, there is absolutely no cut to the Medicare rebate. Let me repeat that: no cut to the Medicare rebate. What we have done is to take a decision to cease this bulk-billing incentive. This was funding that went out over seven years—$500 million of taxpayers' money for a one per cent increase in the bulk-billing rate. I think those across the country would think that that was not a good investment of taxpayers' money.
Those on the other side who believe that wasteful spending is the appropriate way forward is not agreed to by those on this side of the chamber. We will absolutely continue to make responsible decisions in the delivery of the taxpayers' dollars on behalf of those taxpayers. We will not be lectured to by those on the other side with their wasteful spending that left us with a trajectory to debt of $667 billion when we came into government. We will make sensible decisions for the future of this nation and that includes decisions around health spending.
The scaremongering from the other side is extraordinary on this issue. Let me point out for the chamber for those who do not already know that the pathology charge incentive was $1.40 up to $3.40 per item.
I think those around the country are getting absolutely sick about the scaremongering. It is a matter for those providers to determine whether they are going to bulk-bill. What we have seen over the previous seven years is those bulk-billing rates go up 1.3 per cent, from 86.3 per cent to 87.6 per cent over that period of time at a cost of $500 million, which we on this side of the chamber do not think is appropriate use of taxpayers' money.
Thank you, I will. Is the President of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association, Dr Wriedt, correct to say that as a result of these cuts more people, especially those with chronic serious conditions, will not be properly assessed? Why is the Turnbull government ignoring doctors and making it harder for people with chronic serious health conditions to get the vital help they need?
I am not aware of that particular comment, so I will not be commenting on that. What I can say is that our focus on this side of the chamber is on good patient outcomes, on ensuring that we improve the health outcomes for people right across this nation. We have made a decision in relation to this testing—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
I will take Senator Cameron's earlier interjection that we are just letting people die. That is the level of scaremongering we are seeing from the other side. That is what those in the Labor Party will stoop to. We think this is an appropriate measure taken in the context of that $500 million to improve bulk-billing rates only 1.3 per cent, and we will continue to make appropriate decisions for the future of better health outcomes in this nation.