New Medicare cut is part of ambition to destroy Australia’s affordable public health system

By Jim Hayes

Scott Morrison and his government are carrying out another major attack on Medicare. This time via an overhaul to raise health costs and downgrade the quality of access to care at the same time. This is not the first cut. Medicare has been chipped away at for years, and unless it is stopped, the cutting will continue.

The aim of Morrison and his government is to completely do away with Medicare, which it sees as an affront to its notions of market liberalisation. The trouble is, the market is a proven failure when it comes to providing decent health care for all.

Doctors have warned that this latest cut will cost some patients up to $10,000 out of pocket to get surgery. More than 900 procedures are affected. Many will no longer be covered. Some will only be covered in part. The cut may come as early as 1 July.

Affected procedures include general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, cardiac surgical services, vascular services (e.g., varicose veins), General Practice (GP), and Primary Care. Patients will be expected to pay the full cost of microsurgery in some cases.

Many surgical procedures are among those to no longer be covered by Medicare

The cuts must be resisted, and Medicare restored to what it was.

Australia must insist on the right to have an affordable and accessible public health system of the best quality.

Unions are opposing this new cut. There is an online petition. Unfortunately, the campaign to protect and improve Medicare has waned somewhat in recent years and opened the door to attacks. There is no opposition to such cuts across the Australian community. The campaign can and will rise again.

Medicare, originally called Medibank, came into existence during the 1970’s Whitlam government. Behind it was the belief that health care is a right for everyone and should not depend on the size of your bank account. The idea was that a small portion of the taxation system would finance free medical care.

Health insurance companies and major private health providers reacted and campaigned for an end to free the health service. The Coalition was enlisted to help with the effort. The total privatisation of health services has been one of its obsessions.

Medibank was extremely popular, and its current Medicare form remains so. This has made a head on attack impossible. The method adopted has been to destroy it by stealth. Over the following decades, a series of cuts have turned it to a shadow of what it once was.

The Australian health system is being shifted to copy the American one. We are not there yet. But this is the ambition of the Coalition.

Since 2014 alone, $10 billion dollars in funding for Medicare and other health programs.

The American healthcare system is an expensive private one, with a residual sub-standard addition for the poor. Going to the doctor and hospital are extremely expensive. Americans can only access decent healthcare if they are covered by medical insurance.

As the battle there to have something like what Australia already has continues, Australia moves in the opposite direction.

The latest attack on Medicare continues this process and paves the way for the next cut.

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