Treasurer Wayne Swan is refusing to confirm plans to slash private health insurance rebates in next week’s budget, but says “unpopular” decisions will be made to reap Government savings.

The Federal Government reportedly plans to slash the 30 per cent private health rebate for middle and high-income earners, in a bid to save $1.9 billion.

The rebates would fall away on a sliding scale starting with individuals earning more than $74,000 a year and couples on a combined income of more than $150,000 a year. Rebates would vanish altogether at $120,000 for singles and $240,000 for couples.

Mr Swan said the Government had “hard choices” to make in Tuesday’s budget to maintain jobs and put in place vital infrastructure while providing long-term savings.

However, he would neither confirm or deny that slashing the private health insurance was one of those measures.

“What I can say to you is that I won’t shirk, neither will the Government shirk the hard choices, especially if that means making room for a commitment to pensioners and vital nation-building investments to support jobs,” he told ABC radio.

“That’s why there are no easy choices in this budget and some decisions that the Government takes will be unpopular but what we have to do is the right thing in the national economic interest.”

The Opposition said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should be condemned for breaking an election promise, and for driving people from private healthcare at the same time as giving big cash handouts.

“The Government’s been splashing billions of dollars of cash handouts, they haven’t been spending one dollar on health and now we find they’re going to force hundreds of thousands of people out of the private health system into the public system,” Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton told ABC radio.

“If hundreds and thousands of people are driven out of private health insurance by the Government that will make it more expensive for those who remain on private health insurance and this is a huge broken promise by Kevin Rudd and he should stand condemned for it.”

AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua said the move could backfire, leaving the Government with an even bigger public hospital bill.

“Wherever they rip off dollars out of health in one arena, and in this case, for instance, private health insurance, they’ll probably end up spending twice as much in supporting the public hospitals to try to respond to the need and they’re already behind the eight ball,” she told ABC.

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I feel this would be the better way of going. I do not agree 100% with the limits of who gets the Health Insurance rebate but I do believe this would be the best way to get the Health Insurance in this country on the right track.

Source: www.brisbanetimes.com

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