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Dave's Cancer Treatment Cost $4... Morrison Wants Patients Like Him to Pay Thousands

Image description: Scott Morrison wearing a lab coat and surgical mask with his arms behind his back, looking threatening

“The $4 was just because I wanted to take some extra aspirin home with me,” says Dave Massingham, a zoo worker, comedian and CPSU member. He and his co-workers refer to themselves as the Zoonion. “The system is pretty good, when you need it.”

In 2008, Dave was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had to undergo significant treatment. Medicare was with him every step of the way.

“Upon presenting at the hospital I was immediately given a series of tests, I went under the knife to have minor surgery to inspect one of my lymph nodes, and then I spent the better part of two weeks in hospital under observation. After that I went into a chemo and radiation therapy program called CHOPR, which is an eight-cycle regime. That was all covered by Medicare, along with the interesting cocktail of drugs I had to take on top of it.

“It was all entirely possible because of the system we have, unlike horror stories we hear coming from countries like the USA.”

Dave has been in remission for over ten years now, but still has to visit specialists for check-ups on a regular basis. The peace-of-mind this gives him cannot be overstated.

“I always joke that when my oncologist, Kirk, sees me he’s always very bored by me. When I was fascinating for a week and a half and they didn’t know what was happening, that's when it’s scary. If you walk into a specialist’s office and walk out with the distinct impression that they’re rushing you out the door to get to the more important people, that’s a great sign.  

“It’s such a relief being able to have that constant surveillance of my health and to not have to pay through the nose for it.”

Liberal Party DNA Test Results: Negative on Support for Medicare

The Liberal Party has a long history of trying to dismantle, defund and doom Medicare. They opposed public healthcare when Gough Whitlam introduced Medicare’s predecessor, Medibank, and after the Double Dissolution Malcolm Fraser spent eight years pulling it apart. Bob Hawke basically had to start back at square one, but over the next 13 years of Labor, Medicare became the envy of the world. 

John Howard wasn’t keen to fight Medicare head on, but instead he nourished the private healthcare system so that it might grow strong enough to swallow its counterpart. In 1998 only 30% of Australians had private insurance. By December 2000, this number had grown to 46% and has remained at around this level ever since. This led to the massive growth of the for-profit private hospital industry.

Tony Abbott, a true hatchet man, had no interest in such a subtle tactic. He infamously tried to cut rebates for GP visits, which led to a massive outcry from the public. He backed down, but the hatred for public healthcare resides deep in the DNA of the Liberal Party. 

Malcolm Turnbull, the free market man, tried to outsource and privatise some of Medicare’s limbs. The amputation was not successful, and this plan was dropped too. 

This new round of cuts by Morrison is just the latest slice off the top. It won’t affect everyone, but for those it does affect, the impact will be sorely felt. 

Here’s Who Will Suffer The Most

The changes are being made to what is known as the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Essentially, this schedule lays out what the government will pay for, and how much its contribution will be. 

Medicare isn't just one big blanket of protection, it’s actually hundreds of small guarantees, laid out in the MBS, that culminate in the system we depend on.

“I’m very against any kind of winding back of Medicare at all,” says Dave. “I know it’s a pretty standard Coalition move, but this system saved my life.”

Among the cuts being proposed are 188 cardiac surgery items, which hit particularly close to home for Dave. He may one day need a stent in his heart because of the type of cancer he suffered from, and it is exactly these sorts of items that are being cut.

Other cuts include 150 general surgery items and 594 orthopaedic surgery items, as well General Practice and Primary Care services. You can read the full list of changes and the complete MBS here

The Liberal Party has learned from the past that moves to cut Medicare are not popular with the electorate. It is unlikely they would take an axe to it and sell it for parts any time soon, because the community would rally against them. 

They have ditched the axe for the scalpel, and the cuts are much more precise. 

This is why cuts to the MBS are now their preferred stealth tactic: because it targets individuals and their needs. If the specific thing you need from Medicare gets cut, Medicare is effectively lost for you. But your neighbours and co-workers haven’t felt the same pain, and you are isolated in your struggle. 

It’s insidious and despicable, and it must be stopped. 

Australian Unions have started this petition to let Scott Morrison know that we won’t stand for any cuts to Medicare.

“The $4 was just because I wanted to take some extra aspirin home with me,” says Dave Massingham, a zoo worker, comedian and CPSU member. He and his co-workers refer to themselves as the Zoonion. “The system is pretty good, when you need it.” In 2008, Dave was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had to undergo significant treatment. Medicare was with him every step of the way.

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