MONDAY, 7 JUNE 2021
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Thanks for coming out this morning. I just want to address the story that came to light over the weekend of an extraordinary ambush by Scott Morrison on our Medicare system. Under the cover of an understandable national focus on the Victorian outbreak in the Victorian lockdown, Scott Morrison has snuck out almost 1,000 changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule. This ambush will lead to hundreds and hundreds of surgeries being cancelled at the last minute and patients being landed with huge bills that will run to thousands of dollars, which they didn't expect. This just goes to show you can't trust for Liberal Party on Medicare. This is the biggest attack on Medicare in decades and it goes to show you can't trust the Liberal Party when it comes to Medicare.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: So why is Labor worried about these changes?
BUTLER: It's not just Labor, the Australian Medical Association has come out very strongly suggesting this will lead to many, many cancelled surgeries right at the last minute because it takes effect in just three weeks’ time - as well as landing patients with huge bills that will run to thousands and thousands of dollars. There's been no reasoning outlined by the Government to this massive change, the biggest change to Medicare we’ve seen in decades. We've just been ambushed with it three weeks before it takes effect.
JOURNALIST: The AMA has criticised it, have doctors been properly consulted in your opinion?
BUTLER: No, seems very clear that doctors have not been properly consulted. They're not able to tell their patients what it's going to mean for them, for their planned surgeries, for the costs that have been quoted to them. Private health insurers won't be clear what it means for their private health insurance arrangements. This is the biggest attack on Medicare we've seen for decades. It just goes to show you can't trust the Liberal Party when it comes to protecting Medicare.
JOURNALIST: So, what exactly would these changes mean for patients trying to seek treatments for common surgeries?
BUTLER: There's a whole lot of uncertainty and confusion. These changes involve 600 changes to orthopaedic surgery items, 200 changes to cardiac surgery items, and another 150 changes to general surgery items. It’s going to mean that patients can't go ahead with their surgery or it’s going to mean patients will be landed with huge bills of thousands of dollars that they've never been quoted for.
JOURNALIST: If elected would Labor reverse these changes?
BUTLER: We don't want to see these changes go ahead. We think the Government should reverse course, sit down with doctors and with patient groups and actually consult with them about this. This is a huge change for the Medicare system, snuck out undercover of an understandable national focus on what's going on in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: So, what would Labor do to guarantee patients aren’t worse off?
BUTLER: We think Medicare should ensure that all patients can access medical treatment regardless of their bank balance, regardless of their credit card limit. This is this is one of the jewels of Australia's social safety net, and we’ve just seen the most extraordinary ambush by the Liberal Government. It goes to show the Liberals have never supported Medicare.