Liberal healthcare lies

By February 1, 2017Australian Politics

You will often hear the Federal Government say that the increasing health care costs are unsustainable, but this has been shown to be overstating the rate of increase. The Abbott Government used this overstatement as an excuse to plan a cut in rebates for GP visits. As then minister for health, Sussan Ley said in 2015, “in the last decade, spending on Medicare has more than doubled from $8 billion in 2004 to $20 billion today…’ and that “spending is projected to climb to $34 billion in the next decade to 2024”. This was disingenuous of Ley which, given her subsequent snout-in-trough efforts, is not really surprising. She used raw figures that did not take account of inflation or population growth.

Th reality is that according to the Productivity Commission, government spending on GPs was stable between 2006-07 and 2011-12 at a little over $300 per person. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare calculated that Medicare funding for primary health care increased from $222 to $287 (29.3%) per person in real terms (i.e. taking account of inflation) in the decade from 2002-03 to 2012-13. Ley’s lie would have you believe that it had gone up 150%. That is over five times the real increase. That is a BIG lie.

As the architect of Medicare, John Deeble said, the comparison of raw figures had “no credibility at all”. In 2012, the latest year for which figures are available, Australia spent 9.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health, similar to that of the UK, and well below the average (10.5%) for OECD countries and much less than that for the USA (about 18%). Indeed, Australia’s spending on health is the tenth lowest among the 33 OECD nations. Given that the USA spends such a large amount of money on healthcare, you would expect better outcomes. However, in Australia, the average life expectancy is about 82, while that in the USA is just under 79. Where does all the money go? Health care facilities in the USA are largely owned and operated by private sector businesses, and while many are non-profit, others are run by profit making enterprises. You get no points for guessing where the money goes in the latter cases.

In the USA, People are often insured through their employer. If people cannot afford insurance, then they go uninsured. The Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) attempted to cover such people, but with the Republicans taking control of both houses of congress, it is likely that it will be repealed, with many people becoming uninsured again. As an example of the costs involved in the USA and Australian systems, the following anecdote is instructive. A female I know in the US had to have emergency surgery and it cost her $8,000 out of her own pocket, while the same emergency surgery in Australia cost a local female nothing.

So why would the government tell such a massive lie? What are they on about? What are they trying to do? The reason they do this is because they want to privatise it all, and implant either a US style system or a poor-people-be-buggered system into Australia. Assorted Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) ‘discussion’ papers give an indication where the government would like to take us. They cover it in platitudes of cutting inequity and giving people choice. This is code for having a two-tiered healthcare system in which the rich can afford the best healthcare while the plebs can get what they deserve. We do have a two-tiered system in Australia, with those who can afford it, paying for private health insurance, allowing them to pick and choose their care. But going to a system where, if you wish to be insured, you have to have private health insurance, is a recipe for a system like the USA, where many poor people are uninsured. One of the IPA papers opined that there should be a system like superannuation, with each person to pay for their own healthcare. This would be levelled out with subsidies for the poor and infirm. Again, the rich would be able to afford better health care than the poor in the first place, and you can bet any money you like, or indeed bet your health, that any subsidies would be squeezed at the first opportunity, using similar arguments to those used by the LNC currently, that such growth is ‘unsustainable’ and that people like ‘those’ are only bludgers. This would allow the government to give massive tax cuts to its donors in big business, as they have done in the past and have tried to do more recently.


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