Senator Lees Suffering Health Policy Amnesia – 10 January 1999

Recent public comments made by Senator Meg Lees in reaction to Victorian Premier Kennett’s call for a review of Medicare showed that Senator Lees is suffering from convenient selective memory loss said Mr Stephen Milgate Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund.

Senator Lees has accused Premier Kennett of advocating a situation in health care “where we will end up is down the American road where those with money can basically afford anything they want and the rest are stuck with a welfare health system that does not meet basic needs.”

Mr Milgate said “Senator Lees’ comments are breathtaking. The record shows that Senator Lees herself worked conscientiously with Dr Carmen Lawrence to introduce American style Managed Care laws in the form of the Lawrence health contract legislation in 1995.”

“The Lawrence legislation introduced the brave new world of competitive bidding for the health dollar. Health funds, private hospitals and the medical profession were all to compete against each other in a world where manufactured and legislated enforced competition would solve all problems.”

“The result of the Lees supported Lawrence legislation hasbeen a continued decline in private health cover and greater pressure on the public hospital system.”

“Senator Lees has also worked as a soulmate to Dr Wooldridge, the current Federal Health Minister, in ensuring the Lawrence legislation was not repealed but further entrenched.”

“Senator Lees cannot have it both ways. She cannot continue to advocate US style managed health care for the private sector and accuse Victorian Premier Kennett of trying to Americanise Australian health care and expect to be taken seriously.”

“Premier Kennett is right to state what is plainly obvious to everyone else. That is, public hospital Medicare does not appear to be working. Senator Lees should come out of denial and also admit that Medicare has failed to deliver on its promise of “free” universal access to the public hospitals.”.

“Senator Lees can redeem herself by working towards the repeal of the Lawrence legislation and moving away from the economic rationlist approach of US style managed health care system which she helped to introduce in Australia and is now in the US a proven cost driver without improving patient outcomes” said Mr Milgate.