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Medicare becomes major issue in election campaign

The Liberal-National Coalition originally played down Medicare in its pitch to Australian voters. Notably, it said little on its proposal to contract out some $30 billion in back-office processing of Medicare claims annually, including those for services by ophthalmologists and optometrists.It was also later revealed that the Coalition had established a $5-million taskforce to examine the whole Medicare syst.Labor seized on both these initiatives, claiming they donstrated the Coalition wanted to sell off Medicare to the private sector – in other words, privatise it.To add fuel to the fire, it was revealed that the Medibank Private health insurance fund had manipulated its figures prior to the Coalition selling it last year to make it a more attractive purchase.On 19 June, at Labor’s election campaign launch in western Sydney, opposition leader Mr Bill Shorten declared the election was a referendum on Medicare and that the Coalition could not be trusted to not interfere with the health sche. He also committed to roving the extended freeze on the level of Medicare rebates to health professionals made by the Abbott Government, a promise that is understood to extend to optometry.Mr Shorten’s declaration caused Liberal-National Coalition leader Mr Malcolm Turnbull to back down from the plans the party had initially announced and to state, Medicare will never, ever be privatised. It will never be sold. Every elent of Medicare services that is being delivered by government today, will be delivered by government in the future. Full stop. Mr Shorten responded, The biggest fraud of the election campaign is the government pretending its taskforce doesn’t exist and that privatising Medicare isn’t part of their plans. The Coalition is due to hold its official campaign launch on 26 June.

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