By Denis Bright
The drift to corporate healthcare should be challenged at all levels of government across Australia. It is a treatment model with unintentional costs all in the name of that imperative value of freedom of choice. Interested readers should take in the glowing coverage of the rhetorical commitment to elderly people from the web sites of some LNP federal members and senators.
Commitment to the federal LNP’s competitive model of society will of course generate its own health stresses associated with lifelong mortgage payments and the stresses of working in largely non-unionised workplaces. The corporate healthcare model is embedded a wider social perspective. It places profits before the needs of people.
Permit me to promote some discussion on the hollowness of this rhetoric with a few examples from a recent trip to South West Queensland.
As I passed through Toowoomba, I noticed that the scare campaign against federal Labor from the last federal election was still a feature of the local federal LNP member’s site. The so-called retirees’ tax of course referred to Labor’s plans to remove tax credits for dividend imputation (John McVeigh MP in Groom):
Labor’s plans to tax retirees would have the most impact on those on a low and middle income and could force many people onto the Age Pension.
Federal Member for Groom John McVeigh said Labor’s retiree tax would negatively impact around one million Australians including pensioners.
“This is a disgraceful attack on people who have saved throughout their lives to be independent in retirement including more than 6 300 people who live in my electorate of Groom ” Dr McVeigh said.
“On average individuals adversely impacted by the policy stand to lose $2 300 a year and self-managed super funds will lose on average $12 000 a year. For many the losses will be much higher ” he said.
“Like all Australians the people of the Groom electorate deserve a Government that encourages personal responsibility rewards hard work and allows them to keep more of what they earn.
“Labor’s retiree tax undermines these values ripping over $57 billion out of retirement savings. This is part of Labor’s plan for more than $387 billion in additional taxes to people’s homes incomes business and savings.”
Dr McVeigh said suggestions from Labor that this policy would only hit the wealthy have proven to be completely untrue.
“Many retirees in the Groom electorate rely on tax refunds from share dividends to help pay basic household bills,” he said.
The urban sprawl along the Warrego Highway to Toowoomba and beyond reminded me of what I had seen in the USA, some thirty years ago. This is not a healthy model for personal and community development.
The appeal of the countryside in Virginia south of Washington D.C. was shattered by the construction of the Potomac Mills Shopping Centre in 1985. It defied all principles of sustainable urban planning beside Interstate 95. Interested readers might like to check out the details of this development which is currently operated by the Simon Property Group.
Elements of this style of urban sprawl are evident here as the federal government pushes Australia towards a corporate model of urban subdivision and private motorised transport in the name of our own national competition policies.
Near the exists to the motorways serving the second range crossings north of Toowoomba, I noticed the extent of urban sprawl around natural landmarks like Gowrie Mountain where new housing was allowed on its middle and lower slopes by local urban planning guidelines. There are numerous pictures of this style of outer-suburban development on Google Image. So much for those Dreamtime perspectives about natural landmarks which had sustained Indigenous cultures for millennia.
These days the younger residents and retirees from the bush can be sustained by their own commitments to private healthcare. After payment of five or six thousand dollars a year for premium health care cover, these families must expect these hypothetical conversations when they front to pay for routine health procedures like X-rays and other diagnostic tests:
Well your procedure will cost $250 today. Would you like to take advantage of the Medicare rebate when you are making your payments for our procedures? We have your Medicare details on file from last time, so it is just a matter of paying the gap fee which reduces your payment by $130.
Oh, I thought all these fees might be covered by Medicare as I have not been able to receive a rebate from my own health insurance in the past.
Well, our current apt will enable you to gain the fullest possible Medicare rebates even without the need for private health insurance which covers you for a large proportion of in-hospital care.
Yes, I appreciate that. Here is my credit card. It’s a charge of only $120. I always support Medicare and voted LNP this time because our government is fully committed to Medicare. Paying $120 is a small sacrifice to make if it is helping to preserve Medicare.
In the spirit of this self-sacrifice, constituents of the new suburbs on the outskirts of Toowoomba supported the LNP at every booth at both state and federal levels.
For the elderly in adjacent countries towns, the corporate style of healthcare is extended to Commonwealth Home Support Programmes (CHSPs) provided by charities and authorised for profit-making agencies.
Basic accounting strategies to minimise perceived assets through the formation of family trusts, enabled more affluent elderly residents to collect the optimum levels of nursing home bond subsidies and in some cases the full pension although their assets were actually in the millions.
The South Western Hospital and Health Service of the State Health Department has skewed the CHSP guidelines to the needs of local communities. I was pleasantly surprised by some initiatives being taken in Charleville, 750 kilometres west of Brisbane.
The South Western Hospital and Health Service offers this best practice in community outreach which extends beyond the dependency model of some aged care practices:
Older residents of Charleville now have a fun way of getting around town after a luxurious new multi-passenger pedal cycle hit town.
Healthy Ageing Charleville Project Officer Deb Alick said the organisation had purchased a Surrey Bike for use locally.
“The Surrey Bike is a 4-6-seat, pedal-powered, covered vehicle which allows everyone to participate in pedalling the vehicle along, while one person steers,’’ Ms Alick said.
“It’s like a bicycle, only bigger and better.’’
Ms Alick said Healthy Ageing had several stationary bicycles in place at its Alfred St premises in
Charleville for use by program participants.
“They will be able to use the skills and muscle power developed on the stationary bicycles to take the
Surrey Bike around town for a spin,’’ she said.
“It will help promote physical activity, cooperation, fun and social interaction in our community.
“We already have a waiting list of very excited participants and some very bright helmets, so keep a look out on the road for us in Charleville!’’
The absence of commercial and charitable providers of age-care packages in remote areas has enabled the state Department of Health to fill some of the void and to skew the services offered towards healthy living over nursing care with the assistance of some other voluntary agencies.
This might be a blessing in disguise to the recipients of these healthy living models which can be delivered at a fraction of the costs of the commercial alternatives offered in larger urban centres.
Local TAFE courses are also being offered to train local people in effective caring strategies.
Latest OECD health data shows that the federal LNP is hell-bent on promoting a model of healthcare with a focus on treatment over preventative health. In whole sectors like mental health, diabetes, drug dependence, care of disabled people and the elderly, the model is drifting Australia towards the US corporate model of healthcare with its unproductive levels of expenditure and out-of-pocket expenditures.
Constituents are still largely in love with the sweet rhetoric in favour of corporate healthcare even though its excesses are a burden on the levels of economic growth and community development to which the LNP aspires.
Medical practices cannot run efficiently on current Medicare bulk-billing rates which represent less than half the over the counter fees charged in most clinics for both medical care and essential ancillary care services.
South West Hospitals and Health Care Services offer a more balanced healthcare model with an emphasis on preventative care that tunes into the local stresses imposed by financial and social disadvantage.
Similar applications could be extended state-wide in Queensland through systematic applications by agencies of the state health department for similar CHSP packages.
Let’s hope that blind-spots created by the use of soothing LNP rhetoric do not bring the state back to the Joh era through the strategic allocation of preferences by far-right political parties at a time when constituents are under siege during the current national recession.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.
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