Happy and healthy 40th birthday, Medicare

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Forty years ago today, on February 1, 1984, two important moments in Australia’s healthcare history occurred, writes DR MIKE FREELANDER, the federal member for Macarthur, in this opinion piece:

The first was the introduction of Medicare by the Hawke Government, which after a successful enrolment campaign the previous year, had over 90 percent of Australians enrolled into the scheme by the time Medicare was introduced.

The second was when I opened my first paediatric practice at 4 Browne St, Campbelltown and over the next few decades, close to the majority of the 200,000 patients I treated would be seen there.

This clinic is located close to the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic recently opened here in Macarthur and so, it is fair to say that Medicare has been an important part of my professional journey as a paediatrician.

Since this occasion forty years ago, most Australians going to and from their medical appointments have benefited from a world class, universal health insurance scheme thanks to the ability to present their Medicare card.

We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and maintaining equity of access to healthcare is important.

I am proud to be part of a government that believes this and in delivering high quality healthcare for all Australians, but particularly those most disadvantaged.

It is also important to remember Gough Whitlam’s role in this, when as a young medical student, he changed my view of the world when he introduced Australia’s first national, healthcare insurance scheme, Medibank.

The predecessor to Medicare was dismantled by successive Liberal Governments but has and always will be defended by Labor Governments.

I will always be grateful to those who designed, advocated, and continue to protect Medicare.

These include great Labor figures such as Bill Hayden, Neal Blewett and of course Bob Hawke to name a few.

Maintaining a healthy and well-functioning society has helped Australia become the great nation that it is.

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