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Medicare Monopoly on Medical Insurance Now in DoubtThu, 26 Sep 1996

"The Federal Government's Budget decision to reduce Medicare rebates for some medical services has made a farce of the Medicare monopoly", spokesman for the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr Merv Cross said in Sydney today.

"Federal Health Insurance Legislation prohibits any insurance company offering insurance for expenditure that attracts a Medicare rebate except for the gap between 75% and 100% of the Commonwealth Medicare Benefits Schedule for in-hospital medical services."

In the last Budget the Federal Government decided to:

  1. Deny Medicare provider numbers to medical graduates who were unable to gain a place in a training programme, thereby denying their patients a Medicare rebate should these doctors set up in medical practice.
  2. Reduce Medicare rebates for patients who exceed 50 visits in one year to their Psychiatrist to 50% for each subsequent visit.
  3. Reduce or remove Medicare rebates to patients undergoing operations in hospitals requiring a medical Surgical Assistant.

Dr Cross said "the right of a person to purchase medical insurance that will cover those expenses that Medicare either doesn't cover, or has reduced its cover, should no longer be denied by legislation".

"If the Federal Government has decided to withdraw or reduce a benefit, how can it justify laws that prevent a private insurer from offering to restore in part or in full that benefit to a patient"? Dr Cross said.

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