Medicare on life support

General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), Brett Holmes, today urged all Australians who value our principle of universal health care to join nurses and midwives in defending Medicare as we know it.

“Australians treasure their Medicare cards. They are an invaluable safety net which guarantees that they and their families will never suffer for want of medical care when they need it just because they don’t have money in their pocket or expensive health insurance.

“The Minister for Health, Mr Dutton, last night as good as declared his intention to get rid of Medicare as we have come to know and rely on it,” Mr Holmes said.

“Minister Dutton told the ABC’s 7.30 Report last night that Australians need to pay more for their health care and spoke favourably about bringing in ‘co- payments’ to see a doctor.

“Make no mistake, the day Australians have to stump up cash to take their sick child to the GP, that is the day Medicare becomes terminal. The Minister made it very clear that a user-pays system is the Abbott Government’s solution to every challenge our society might face.

“The Minister also confirmed in a speech in Brisbane yesterday his Government’s preference for a greater role of the private sector and private insurers in primary care, as the government wanted to ‘grow the opportunity for those Australians who can afford to do so to contribute to their own health care costs’.

“We already have a two-tier system of health for those who can afford private health insurance, which, we should not forget, receives a taxpayer subsidy of approximately $5 billion a year, but clearly the Government sees greater opportunity for insurance companies and corporations to make more money out of illness.” Mr Holmes said

The NSWNMA supports the international movement for the introduction of a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) in Australia and internationally. It will call on visiting G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Sydney on Sunday, including Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, to adopt such a tax across the developed world.

“A tiny levy on market-based financial trading, currency speculation, derivatives and share trading would provide ample funds to maintain the services like health and aged care that Australians expect. And it would be paid only by a handful of the wealthiest among us, many of whom are currently able to minimise or avoid paying tax,” Mr Holmes said.

“Already 11 Eurozone nations, including France and Germany, have moved to introduce the levy and been given approval to do so by the EU Finance Ministers meeting in Brussels last year.

Experts have estimated that an FTT of only 0.05% in Australia from 2005 would have raised approximately $48 billion in just the three following years.

“Even that tiny impost would fill any budget shortfalls without extreme measures like destroying Medicare. If it’s good enough for Germany, why not us?” Mr Holmes said.

“Medicare is precious to Australians because it is fundamental to our sense of living in a fair and decent society. It means no one need live in fear of needing medical help and being unable to afford it or choosing between the doctor and the groceries.

“We pay for it through the levy on our income and our general taxes. It treats every Australian the same, no matter where they live or how much wealth they have. If we need more money to keep our nation healthy, then we say institute the FTT, that way those who really can afford to contribute more to our society will do so.

“We can all see a doctor or go to hospital whenever we need to, even if we are broke.

“So called ‘co-payments’ are just the thin edge of a wedge that has been sharpened for years by extreme ideologues within the Coalition parties. If there’s a payment, it’s not Medicare – full stop.

“These people have always wanted to destroy Medicare and allow a US-style private profit system to take over in its place. This is the opening salvo to achieve that end,” Mr Holmes said.

“It’s up to Australians to make their voices heard before it’s too late and Medicare is dead and buried,” Mr Holmes said.

Download the NSWNMA media release Medicare on life support

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