What not to get Medicare for its 40th

4 minute read

God forbid we celebrate four decades of subsidised healthcare with true reform.

“We cross now to Canberra, where our health correspondent Cate Swannell is reporting live from the scene of an announcement from the Minister for Health. Over to you, Cate.” 

Live cross to Mural Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. 

Yes, thanks Jim. I’m here at a rather excitable gathering of the Canberra press gallery where, frankly, the scene is over-the-top anticipatory.  

This week is the 40th anniversary of the introduction of Medicare, once described as a world-class universal health insurance scheme. 

These days, of course, Medicare is going through an unprecedented crisis and is widely perceived to be crumbling before our very eyes.  

GP bulk billing rates have fallen off a cliff, getting to see a private specialist has become a game of postcode lottery, the corporates have taken over general practice, pathology and radiology, and we’re all growing older with more chronic diseases. 

In short, Medicare is no longer fit for purpose, and is in desperate need of serious reform. 

Health Minister Mark Butler called this press conference late this afternoon with a good deal of fanfare and the prediction is that he is about to announce radical reforms which will change the face of healthcare in this country for the better. 

Speculation is that Mr Butler could be about to introduce an independent fee-setting agency which would mean GPs would bulk bill everyone with fees set by negotiation and enshrined in legislation. 

Another possibility is the introduction of universal dental care under the Medicare umbrella – something that would guarantee dental care for the more than two million Australians who missed out oral health care in 2022-23 because of cost. 

In the background Mr Butler can be seen entering the room and standing at the lectern. The director cuts from Cate to the camera focused on the Health Minister. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming today for this announcement, which we’re very excited about. 

“On the 40th anniversary of Medicare the Albanese government is continuing to strengthen our world-class healthcare system. 

“The celebration acknowledges Medicare is the foundation of our health system, ensuring all Australians have equitable access to healthcare when they need it, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. 

“Medicare belongs to all Australians and the anniversary activities will happen in partnership with the communities and the health professionals where services are delivered.” 

Collective intake of journalistic breath as Mr Butler pauses for dramatic effect. 

“The Albanese government is releasing a special edition Medicare card in 2024 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Australia’s world-class universal health insurance scheme. 

“The 40-year anniversary cards will start rolling out from 1 February – marking the date Medicare services started in 1984. 

“People who get a new or replacement card between 1 February and 31 December 2024 will be sent the commemorative edition. 

“It was a Labor government that built Medicare and it is only a Labor government who will continue to protect and strengthen Medicare. 

“Thanks for your attendance – you will each receive this replica commemorative Medicare card in honour of this press conference.” 

Mr Butler starts tossing out cards to the press gallery, like Donald Trump tossing rolls of paper towel to Puerto Ricans after a hurricane. 

Director cuts back to Cate, who has caught her replica commemorative Medicare card and is showing it to the camera. 

Well, there you have it Jim, the latest mind-blowing innovation from the Department of Health and Aged Care. Only time will tell what this does for the health of Australians. Back to you. 

Live cross goes black. 

For FUCK’S sake. C’mon, Dougal. Let’s get a beer. 

Send story tips that promise the sublime and deliver the ridiculous to penny@medicalrepublic.com.au 

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