Greens reach deal to pass rebate means test
Outbackjack: The Federal Government and the Greens have hailed a deal over private health insurance as a "win for fairness".
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has secured Greens support for the Government's health legislation with a $165 million package to provide dental services to low-income earners.
The legislation will allow means-testing of the private health insurance rebate and an increase in the Medicare Levy surcharge.
The Government still needs the votes of cross-bench MPs, but Ms Plibersek believes the bill could pass the House of Representatives as early as tonight.
"It means that low-income Australians won't be subsidising the private health insurance rebates of much higher-paid Australians," she said.
"I'm going to let the other crossbenchers speak for themselves, but what I can say is that I feel confident that this legislation will now pass in an unamended form."
The money for dental care will be funded by an increase in the Medicare Levy surcharge for people on higher wages who do not hold private hospital cover.
But the main plank of the legislation will means-test the private health insurance rebate, with reductions beginning for a single person earning more than $80,000 and families on $160,000.
The rebate will cut out completely for singles who earn more than $124,000 and families on more than $248,000.
Labor has been trying to means-test the public health insurance rebate for nearly three years. It represents a $2.4 billion boon to the budget.
Ms Plibersek says the changes are fair.
"Instead of subsidising the private health insurance of people on $250,000 a year, $500,000 a year, $1 million a year, it will instead be used on the sort of things that we're talking about today - the dental health needs of some of our most disadvantaged Australians," she said.
Outbackjack: Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale says the deal is a win for low-income earners.
"Those people who can now go to the dentist who couldn't afford to do so previously will be grateful," he said.
But Senator Di Natale says he views the investment as a "down-payment" and the beginning of negotiations with the Government over better dental care.
"It's not enough, more needs to be done," he said.
"We're very aware that there needs to be a significant investment in dental care."
The Greens have been calling for dental services to be included in Medicare, something the Government estimates will cost around $5 billion a year.
While the Minister says that is not affordable, she has left open the possibility of more money for dental services in the May budget.
"We don't have a final position on any dental package going into the budget; we still have a lot of policy work to do," Ms Plibersek said.
Labor promised to address dental services in its 2010 deal with the Greens to form government.
The Coalition plans to vote against the changes to the private health insurance rebate, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has again refused to say whether he would scrap the means test if he wins government.
Mr Abbott would only say the Coalition would continue to fight the plan.
"We will fight for it, and if the independents have any integrity they will stop this $2.4 billion hit on Australian families," he said.
ABC News Australia
An end to middle class welfare.
Bring on the dental scheme for everyone I say.I am sick of coughing up at the dentist.
DiIIy: Oh great yet another thing the government takes away from hard working Australians.
Pay higher private health premiums or higher Medicare levy.
We have an average private health cover and trust me when i say our Dental rebates are bugger all. What we get private cover for lessons every year yet the premiums increase.
Maybe paying the higher Medicare levy will be less than Private health so we can just claim everything on Public health system.
AussieOi: All I can say is there are some pretty shabby teeth down Frankston way and I'll be keeping an eye out for improvement when I'm down there next.
Outbackjack: If a family is earning over $3 grand a week then I dont reckon they need a rebate Dilly.
xox G xox: Why not Jack. Is that person not hard working, does that person not pay enough tax, this shits me that others that dont earn a good wage feel bitter and think they shouldnt have any tax/government what have you rebates etc.
To earn over $3 grand a week isnt whats bought home after tax.
xox G xox: Its about stinging those that work hard and earn more to pay for those that dont.
Theres far too much welfare here, maybe the government should be putting their efforts into improving business/employment to give those on welfare a job so they can pay for health care like the rest of us. Lowering the interest rates so everyone can afford to purchase their own home, looking at our cost of living ...its great they passed the carbon tax hey ......now they have to give lower end families and those who receive family payment A/B more welfare to afford the rising costs from that.
Many in Australia look at welfare as a right and not as a short term solution till they get back on their feet.
Yes every one deserves good health services and theres many bulk billing clinics around that do that.
Outbackjack: Yes the harddorking do get penalised as opposed to the filthy rich.
The original resource tax (MRRT) proposed by Kevin Rudd would have gone a long way to paying towards our increasing health and welfare bill.Instead the miners removed Rudd and installed their puppet Gillard who on her first day in power watered down the tax by roughly $8 billion less a year.
I am afraid its just another chapter in the long list of backdowns by our governments,both liberal and labor.You only have to look at how Corporate taxes have been slashed since the 1970s.Some estimates come in at $50 billion less is being paid in tax by the corporations each year.
Lowering interest rates is not the answer to making housing more affordable.You just have to look at the ridiculous prices that are being paid for houses and the even more ridiculous rents.
Greed is the problem and I dread the day that my children ever try to purchase their own home.