Peter Khalil: Many people in my electorate of Wills have called me, written to me or even just come up to me at the regular street stalls that I conduct to complain about the fact that it is no longer possible to lodge a Medicare rebate in person. They miss being able to just walk into a Medicare office, hand over an invoice from their trip to the doctor, along with their little green card, and have their rebate processed then and there.
Following changes occurring under this coalition government, Medicare claims now must be either submitted online or taken to a Centrelink office to be sent to a regional processing centre—I am not sure where; it could be Armidale. Whereas once you would be handed cash on the spot, the claims process is now known to take weeks. For elderly people in particular, the online option presents real access issues and the extended processing times can cause financial hardship. For people of a non-English speaking background, who may need help navigating the claims process, face to face help is now extremely limited or non-existent in most cases.
We do not want people skipping visits to their GP because they cannot afford to be out of pocket for so long, or because the claims process is difficult to understand. Labor in government took the step of amalgamating Medicare and Centrelink service centres to create a more efficient human services system. But this government cut face-to-face services entirely. That is not an efficiency—it is an attack on the quality of Medicare and Medicare services. These changes have occurred at the expense of service quality. For something as critical as our health care system, this is simply unacceptable.