On 27 March 2014, the Senate referred the Health Insurance Amendment (Extended
Medicare Safety Net) Bill 2014 (Bill) to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee
(committee) for inquiry and report by 16 June 2014.
The Extended Medicare Safety Net
The Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) provides individuals and
families with an additional Medicare benefit once an annual threshold has been
reached for out-of-pocket costs for out-of-hospital services. Out-of-hospital
services include general practitioner and specialist attendances, services
provided in private clinics and private emergency departments, and many
pathology and diagnostic imaging services.
There are two EMSN thresholds:
- the concessional (lower) threshold for Commonwealth Concession
cardholders and families who receive Family Tax Benefit (Part A); and
- the general (upper) threshold for all other individuals and
As part of the 2013-14 Budget, the Australian Government announced that
the general threshold would be increased to $2,000 on 1 January 2015, saving $105.6
million over four years.
The concessional threshold is not affected by the Bill.
Purpose and key provisions of the Bill
The Bill seeks to amend the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Act) to:
- increase the general threshold of the EMSN from $1,000 to $2,000,
for medical expenses incurred on or after 1 January 2015 (items 1 and
2 of Schedule 1); and
- allow the Chief Executive of Medicare to determine the manner in
which families are contacted to confirm the composition of their family for
EMSN purposes (item 4 of Schedule 1).
Upon introduction of the Bill into Parliament, the Hon. Peter Dutton MP,
Minister for Health (Minister) stated that the proposed measures are a
significant change to the Medicare system, which will allow the Australian
...to responsibly manage expenditure on the [EMSN] and reduce
the administrative burden on the Department of Human Services. This is
important for supporting the sustainability of the [EMSN] while singles and
families can continue to receive additional assistance with their out‑of‑pocket
The Minister noted however that the Bill represents a commitment first
made by the Rudd Government in the 2013-14 Budget.
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry, including a link to the Bill and associated
documents, were placed on the committee's website.
The committee also wrote to 72 organisations and individuals, inviting submissions
by 30 April 2014. Submissions continued to be accepted after that date.
The committee received nine submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1.
All submissions were published on the committee's website.
The committee held a public hearing on 16 May 2014 at Parliament House
in Canberra. A list of witnesses who appeared at the hearing is at Appendix 2,
and the Hansard transcript is available through the committee's website.
The committee thanks those organisations who made submissions and who
gave evidence at the public hearing.
Note on references
References to the committee Hansard are to the proof Hansard.
Page numbers may vary between the proof and the official Hansard
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