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Concessions for Lifesaving Equipment

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tags: Health, Aurora, West Coast

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I want to raise an issue of concern to all Tasmanians who rely on concessions to be able to affordably use lifesaving equipment. We are talking here about devices such as oxygen concentrators, dialysis machines, chronic positive pressure and airways regulators, respirators, ventricular assist devices. These are pieces of medical equipment that keep people alive but also ensure a quality of life for people with chronic conditions.

I particularly want to raise the issue of an apparent change of practice in the administration of concessions in Tasmania. I would normally address this concern to the Minister for Human Services but as it involves an apparent change of practice on the part of the State Revenue Office I would like Mr Gutwein as Treasurer to follow this up.

A resident of the west coast says in his letter:

I am an octogenarian … who was diagnosed over a decade ago with 'sleep apnoea' and I have been using a machine at night to assist with breathing whilst asleep ever since. I consider it has been a life saver ever since and I am in good condition as a result.

I believe my need for this appliance will end with my last breath.

This is Mr Kenneth Flight of Zeehan. Mr Flight says he has moved a number of times and each time he has moved in order to have his power reconnected he has had to refill out those forms in order to get the concession. He has done that quite comfortably but in January this year he received a letter from Aurora which made it clear that he, along with every other Tasmanian who receives a concession for a chronic medical condition, will have to apply every year in order to receive that concession.

Mr Flight says that this policy changed in January this year so it has changed under this Government. The letter he received from Aurora in January was titled ' Important review of your life support concession discount' and it opens with:

As part of our obligations to the State Revenue Office to apply the life support concession discount to your Aurora Energy electricity account we are required to confirm your eligibility annually.

That strikes me as a particularly bureaucratic, heartless and officious approach to the provision of concessions to people who are disadvantaged by serious medical conditions. The Commonwealth does not apply the same annual requirement. The Commonwealth's guidelines are very clear in that they state to people who receive Commonwealth concessions that there will be no need to reapply in future years unless personal circumstances change. This is for the essential medical equipment concession.

The question I would like the Treasurer, perhaps in the adjournment tomorrow night or at the earliest opportunity when he is back in the Chamber, to address his mind to is does he really think it is fair and reasonable for the State Revenue Office to require people with chronic, lifelong conditions who require the use of medical aids which are expensive to run and therefore receive a concession, every year to go to a doctor because it has to be confirmed through a GP, pay the cost of a doctor, get the medical certificate to say, yes, the same chronic and lifelong condition that they have all these years they will have in the following year and for the rest of their lives. Then he has to pay for the cost of the GP and then go through the paperwork. It is filling out another form, the Life Support Concession form. So every single year someone who is on a dialysis machine for example, who clearly has a condition that will be with them for life, has to fill out this form as of January this year.

We can do better than that as a state. We could be in line with the Commonwealth and ensure that people who rely on this equipment and the concessions are not put through a quite unfair, unnecessary, expensive and onerous process of justifying why they continue to need a concession. I ask Mr Gutwein to examine that and I would also like the Minister for Human Services to have a conversation with him about it because the minister administers concessions in Tasmania. It might also be a matter the Minister for Health is interested in because these will be many of his constituents in the health system, so could you please have a look at it?