The Coalition’s Medicare policy: Be afraid — be very afraid

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Despite the Turnbull Government's insistence that it has no intention to privatise Medicare, the facts seem to indicate otherwise. Ash Ghebranious decodes one Government adviser's recent policy explanation.

WHEN TONY SHEPHERD, former chairman of Abbott's National Commission of Audit, appeared on Lateline, to discuss the Coalition Government's policy on health care, he said something in regard to what he called "outsourcing the back processing" that Emma Alberici missed:

And the system is really clunky and old. You know, we have eight definitions of income within that system. So writing the software to make that work is difficult.

I think there is one group of pensioners  there is only 400 of them in a specific category. I mean, that just makes the system very hard to manage.

What he is implying here, is that somehow the outsourced version of Medicare will not have eight definitions of income or, that one group of pensioners will no longer belong to a specific category.

Here is the clear falsehood. First, he claims that all this is is an outsourcing of the "back processing". Then he implies that the new system would not include categories that the Government had specifically legislated for, including categories of income tax. This is not outsourcing back processing — this is rewriting the entire system and taking clear government decisions out of government hands!

The 400 pensioners that Tony Shepard mentioned is one particular case. Is he referring to spouses of war veterans? Or people with different disabilities?

You see, what Tony Shepherd fails to understand is people are different. They do not fit in boxes. They all have to be treated as individuals, even in a very large system. He seems to see this as inefficient. And clunky. He doesn’t seem to think that people should be seen as people.

So he is not talking about "back processing". He is talking about companies that will decide what is income and what pensioners belong where.

But let's assume that the companies who take on the payments system do not change the categories or the payment types. Let's say they do not change income categories — that all they do is deliver the payment.

They will not be doing this service for nothing. They work for profit.

They will be demanding a fee for every time a client uses their system. Every time. This fee may be charged to the government, which means Australians pay more for Medicare. Or it will be charged to doctors, who will then pass it on to their clients, which means Australians pay more for Medicare. Or they can directly charge consumers, which means Australians pay more for Medicare.

Every time you use your Medicare card and use their system, you will be paying more. A co-payment by any other name.

What you should remember before taking Malcolm Turnbull at his word in regard to Medicare policy is this: he was in cabinet in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2014, this "enquiry" began. It ran through 2015 and 2016 where it was set upon by the media in February and they called it privatisation then.

It is privatisation now.

Read more by Ash at ashghebranious.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter@AshGhebranious.

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