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Issue 574, 5 October 2007 - All unions should back the Greens

Me-tooism as Labour backflips over Medicare

LABOR HAS dropped its opposition to the Liberals' so-called Medicare safety-net.

The policy, introduced in 2004, means that 80 per cent of out-of-pocket medical expenses are covered for pensioners and average wage earners if the cost is above $500.

But high-income earners get the same treatment for expenses above $1000. Labor, which once argued that the policy was a "sham" to line the pockets of the rich, now says a million families rely on it so it cannot be abolished.

This is incredibly dishonest. The UTS Centre for Health Economics, Research and Evaluation has found that just 10 per cent of the $440 million spent in the first two years of the policy went to GP consultations. Ninety per cent went to specialist services and, of this, 38 per cent went to IVF and private obstetric services.

Last year, a quarter of the $250 million spent on the policy went to the country's ten richest electorates, eight of which are Liberal seats.

This policy undermines public healthcare. The Liberals, and evidently Labor too, want to undermine Medicare by ploughing cash handouts into private healthcare "incentive" schemes.

Since 2000, nearly $14 billion has been spent on the Private Health Insurance rebate, giving 30 per cent handouts to anyone who takes out a private policy-no matter how rich they are.

The government then has the gall to tell us that we cannot afford public health in the future because of the "ageing population".

This from a government that pledged $22 billion over the next 12 years for the military budget, a 150 per cent increase since 1996, including $300 million for Iraq in 2007-8 and $450 million for Afghanistan.