Medicare

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Joe is a 4 year-old butcher. He is the only breadwinner in his family and aren’t particularly well off. They’re not poor either, but they’re part of a significantly large number of people who fit into this unique income class. One day Joe had an accident and breaks his arm. It’s the day before he gets paid, so Joe hasn’t got any cash in his wallet. He goes to the doctor and gets his arm bandaged and plastered. He goes to pay and is asked for an upfront payment. Joe also has bills piling up on the fridge door, but don’t we all?


The above story is an example that will without doubt be repeated thousands of times over if the Howard government’s has its way. Their recent plan to phase out Medicare’s bulk-billing system is both unfair and undeserved by a hard-working group of Australians, many of whom voted this government in with the best of intentions, believing that they had their interests, especially in the vital realm of healthcare.


It turns out, as so often happens with the Howard Government, that they have been cruelly deceived. Just like when they were promised that we would ‘never have a GST’, the people put their faith in ‘honest John’ and were let down time and time again.


You really think that they would have learnt by now…


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The Howard Government is slowly imposing Howard’s ‘vision’ on an unsuspecting nation. Howard yearns for the day when healthcare, along with education, two vital pillars of any democracy, are completely ‘user-pays’ systems, where healthcare will no longer be the concern of the government, but of big businesses, who have no conscience or no commitment to the ‘greater good’, but only of profit margins and pleasing their shareholders. Sadly, for the shareholders of the Howard government, the people, this means tailoring their weekly budgets so that a trip to the doctor, for something that should be a right, becomes, sadly, a privilege. One must ask is it a privilege for your little girl to have her arm set in plaster? ….. Is it a privilege to be healed? …. According to the Liberal government, the answer is seemingly ‘yes’.


A -year-old woman arrived at an emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain. Her physician told her two days earlier that, despite her tubal ligation, she was pregnant. The emergency room nurses called the womans HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) to obtain prior approval before she was examined by a doctor. The HMO denied authorization. The doctor decided to see the woman anyway and discovered that she had an ectopic pregnancy - a life-threatening condition requiring emergency surgery. The doctor spent the next six months arguing with the HMO over who should pay the bill.


If the doctor had followed the protocol of the health insurance company, it is more than probable that the woman would have died a painful death.


Situations such as these will begin to occur more and more as more Australians are slowly forced into private health insurance � which is what the Howard governments ‘reforms’ will do.


Australia’s current health system works. Brought in by the Labor Hawke government in 184, as a spin-off of the Whitlam-inspired Medibank, Medicare was to be a universal healthcare system, providing quality care at an affordable price for all Australians � rich or poor. Funded by the tax-payer by a 1.5% income levy, it meant that everybody paid their fair share and received quality health care. The benefits of this system continue today


Firstly, it offers Australians accommodation in a public hospital without charge; access to a general practitioner of their choice; certain surgical and diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, some dental care, and other medical tests. It offers a ‘safety-net’ in terms of payment, whereby the patient ends up paying less, by way of a rebate from Medicare. This is a long way from the insurance horror stories from the US and other countries. As Derryn Hinch puts it “compared to some other places I have lived, this is health heaven”.


John Howard’s ‘reforms’, by forcing people towards the unethical private health insurance, where the almighty dollar takes precedence over the health and well-being of the average person, will slowly but surely turn our country into a ‘health hell’.


The liberal government is content to wash its hands of public healthcare, so that it doesn’t have to bother itself with the problems that may arise. It doesn’t care that the people will be at the mercy of massive companies with no social conscience or concern. It only wants to sell off health care � and make a killing in the process.





So, it seems as though we are being moved towards a two-tiered system - public and private. This however, will create three types of classes the poor, who are protected by the public safety net but can’t afford much more and the well-off, comfortable people who can afford the best private insurance money can buy.


In between, however, we have the genuine battlers, who arent poor enough to get the safety net, but cant afford the private insurance either. These people make up the majority of the Australia’s 0 million people. It is these people that rely on bulk-billing for affordable healthcare.


In the words of one wise doctor “The foundation of Medicare is its universality, that it is available to everyone. Health care is a public good. After all you never know when you might need care and we’re all in this together � every one of us.”





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