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Opposition 'cried wolf' over Medicare claims

8 July 2011 - 5:07pm

Claims made by the Opposition that up to a million Australians would abandon private health cover in favour of the public sector as a result of changes to the Medicare levy surcharge were unfounded, according to new research.

Minister for health and ageing Nicola Roxon asserted that the opposition "have been caught crying wolf" after a report from KPMG indicated that the surcharge changes did not affect activity trends in public hospitals.

She said: "In fact, the rate of growth in private patients in public hospitals was higher than for public activity."

The report is the second in a series of three reports to be prepared by KPMG on the effects of the threshold changes for the Medicare levy surcharge, which took effect in October 2008. The third report is scheduled for publication early next year.

Changes saw the threshold for single people increase from $50,000 to $70,000, while couples or families rose from $100,000 to $120,000.

Ms Roxon added that it is important to consider "evidence-based policymaking", particularly when it comes to the proposed private health insurance rebate changes announced this week.

The number of Australians taking out private health insurance stands at its highest rate since 1982. According to the Labor government, 10.2 million people currently hold private hospital cover.