THE Queensland Government has agreed to provide vulnerable Medicare-ineligible asylum seekers with access to public health services at no charge.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said there was a small number of asylum seekers currently residing in Queensland who were not eligible for Medicare and didn’t have access to other repayment options.
Asylum seekers who were previously not eligible to receive Medicare will now no longer be charged to access services in public hospitals across the state.
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The change reinstates arrangements that were originally introduced in Queensland in 2006.
“We want to provide care to all of the people in our state, and giving these vulnerable people access to healthcare services is the right thing to do,” Mr Dick said.
“Service providers have reported instances where asylum seekers are avoiding health services because they fear getting a bill and not being able to pay.
“This poses risks to the whole community from both a health perspective and financially, should their conditions go untreated or worsen.
“Estimates put it at a few hundred people, so the costs of providing them with access to care are quite modest compared with the health, social and community benefits to be gained.
“These people have little or no capacity to pay. As such, there is little point billing them, and then spending more money trying unsuccessfully to obtain payment.
“Queensland Health provides high-quality health care not only to Queenslanders, but also to people from interstate or abroad if they are injured or become unwell while in Queensland.
“Across the state, the reality is that our public hospital services are used by people who are not covered by Medicare or private health insurance from time to time. This includes asylum seekers.
“These types of visits represent a very small portion of the total activity occurring in Queensland’s public hospitals,” Mr Dick said.
Public hospitals will continue to bill other people who are Medicare ineligible, as most have travel insurance or overseas student health cover.