Gold Coast Press Conference

June 10, 2021




SUBJECTS: Changes to Medicare Rebates; rising health costs under Morrison Government.

ROWAN HOLZBERGER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FORDE: Well thank you for coming today, really appreciate it. And especially thank you to our really brave Pimpama family, Richard and his children, Damian and Jesse - they've got an extraordinary story and they've had an extraordinarily hard road. Their condition means surgery after surgery, and their parents are really concerned about the changes that Scott Morrison is trying to sneak into Medicare after July 1.

Already on the Gold Coast, health costs are spiralling out of control. On the northern Gold Coast alone, since the LNP came to power, the out-of-pocket cost of seeing a specialist - the out-of-pocket cost - has skyrocketed by 48 per cent. I've had lots of calls this week from concerned families and GPs that are worried that people are going to be stuck with unaffordable surgery bills after July 1. People have spoken to me about their costs going up on asthma puffers, the out-of-pocket costs of blood tests, scans. And one woman from Pimpama even told me that she literally skips meals so that she can afford to feed her young son and pay for the health care that she needs.

It's just unacceptable that in the middle of a pandemic, people are worried about whether or not they can afford health care.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, and it's a little bit unknown, isn't it? Some families don't know how much out of pocket they will be.

HOLZBERGER: People have been ambushed by this. I mean, people are facing potentially $7,000-$10,000…

JOURNALIST: And has there been much notice?

HOLZBERGER: No notice. It's come as a total shock to people. It's entire chaos, you know, the GPs and the surgeons that I've spoken to have absolutely no idea exactly how much it's going to impact people. The fact is, there are going to be plenty of people worse off.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything that can be done to stop these cuts?

HOLZBERGER: Change the government. You know, we're going to have an opportunity in perhaps just a few short months where people are going to be able to have a say about whether or not they are satisfied with the way that the Scott Morrison Government has handled Medicare. 

MURRAY WATT, QUEENSLAND LABOR SENATOR: Well as Rowan has just said to you, this is an issue that is of great concern to families around the Gold Coast and Logan. We know that many families are already struggling to make ends meet and especially with wages not keeping up with inflation.

What we've learnt over the last few days is that Scott Morrison's Government has a secret in store for people, which is that on the 1st of July, a lot of Medicare rebates are going to be changed and taken away. And what that really means is that people are going to be paying more to see the doctor and to get important surgery done.

You'll hear in a minute from Richard, a father of two kids with a rare disease which has required lots of surgeries, they're in and out of hospital all the time. And under these changes from the 1st of July, families like Richard's are going to be paying more simply to get their kids the hospital care that they need. There are big changes being planned to Medicare rebates for cardiac surgery, for orthopaedic surgery - so for knees, for hips and all sorts of other types of surgery. Currently, people are able to get these surgeries done for free through their public hospital system. But with these changes, people are going to have to be forking out of their own pocket just to get basic health care. That is just unfair. And it's really sneaky on the part of the Government to be trying to slip out that these changes when we're in the middle of a pandemic, everyone's worried about COVID at the moment. They think that people are distracted and that they can just whack through these changes, which will see people paying more.

As Rowan was saying, already since this Government was elected in 2013, Gold Coasters are paying 50 per cent more to see a specialist than what they were doing a few years ago. And they're paying about a third more to go and see their GP than what they were paying only a few years ago. And it's about to get worse with these changes. Now is not the time for people to be having to pay more for basic health care. That's exactly what Scott Morrison is doing. So Labor is calling on the Government to abandon these changes, have another look at them and make sure that what they're actually asking people to do is fair.

JOURNALIST: So has it really come down to a cost saving method for the Government?

WATT: This is clearly about the Government cutting costs on public health care. And let's face it, this is something that the LNP have tried to do time and time again. Even if you go back to when Medicare was first brought in by Bob Hawke and his Labor Government back in the 1980s, the Liberals opposed it. When they were elected in 2013, they tried to bring in a co-payment which would have required people to pay more to go and see their GP, Labor stopped it. And now this is just the latest example of the LNP continuing to attack Medicare, our universal public health system, which is the (envy) of the world.

We are so lucky in Australia to have a public health system where you can go and get great health care, no matter how much money you've got in your pocket. We should never get rid of that system. And that's exactly what the Liberals are trying to do here.

JOURNALIST: And would Labor be able to reverse these changes if they're elected or is it too late?

WATT: Well as I say, we're actually calling on the Government to pause these changes right now. We don't want to see them brought in on the 1st of July. But the only way that people can be confident of having a good, well-funded public health care system is by changing the government and voting Labor at the next election. That's why I'm supporting people like Rowan, who are standing for election in electorates like Forde.