PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: I rise to express my concern about the proposed cuts to the private health insurance rebate.
Private health insurance is very important in my electorate—70 per cent of my residents take out private health insurance. I represent a very middle-class electorate. It is not overly wealthy; it is not overly poor. It is very middle Australia. And people take out private health insurance in electorates like mine because they want peace of mind. They want the choice of their specialist and they want to be able to access hospitals which are within range, such as the Knox Private Hospital in my electorate.
The government is proposing to remove the rebate from the Lifetime Health Cover loading. This impacts all people who did not take out private health insurance when they hit 30. If you do not take it out when you hit 30 you pay an additional loading. This is currently covered by the rebate; however, the government is proposing that this loading no longer be covered. This will force premiums up by up to 27.5 per cent for many families.
This is not the first change to the private health insurance rebate that the government have put in place. Indeed they have already means tested the private health insurance rebate and, while that affects directly the people with higher salaries, it has a flow-on effect throughout the entire system so that everybody has to pay higher premiums regardless of their income each year.
I am particularly concerned about the proposed changes for three reasons. Firstly, it will have another impact on increasing cost-of-living pressures for many Australians who are already feeling the squeeze at the moment.
Secondly, if people drop out of private health insurance because premiums go up—and they will—then it just puts additional pressure on the public health system, which is already overstretched; there are already extensive waiting lists.
Thirdly, this would constitute a further broken promise from the government. They expressly stated before the last election that they would not touch the private health insurance rebate. If they go ahead with these proposals then it will be very damaging to Australians and it will represent another broken promise from this government.