I’ve left filling in my 2014 tax return late. I don’t have much to report.
Here in Australia our income tax includes a 1.5% levy to fund Medicare. If you do not carry private health insurance, you are “liable” (according to the Australian Taxation Office) for a levy “surcharge” of up to 2%.
The conservative Howard Government established the fine surcharge in the late 1990s unashamedly to boost the prospects of the private health industry which offers facilities and services in parallel to the public system, and apparently in competition to it. It has been my bugbear ever since.
I neither want nor need private health insurance because the public health facilities serve me perfectly well. Living with cancer puts me in a good position to test my conviction, which continues to stand.
In my tax return I have to tell the government what it already knows: that I don’t carry private health insurance. But look at the question:
“Were you and all your dependants covered by an appropriate level of private patient hospital cover for the full year?” Yes/No
But the ATO is not asking me about what I happen to think is appropriate. I am simply being queried whether or not I pay premiums to an insurance corporation that plays by the government’s rules, with ‘excess’ or ‘gap’ service fees that are within regulatory limits, and whether my policy covers my whole family and level of risk. Am I still beating my wife?
I have to answer “No”. But I haven’t done anything wrong, you bastards.
Health costs are rising at an alarming rate. An increasing proportion of elderly people who need more frequent medical care are out of the tax-paying workforce. The government must raise more money for the public health system.
The levy surcharge is a tax on the rich in disguise, which makes leftist political parties silently happy. This is the wedge that Howard’s Government so ruthlessly applied.
Now the ATO, perhaps with political encouragement, audaciously coerces more wealthy people into the private health system. If you have enough income to pay into private insurance, but choose not to, then you will get stung because you’re not holding up your end of the Government’s deal to support the finance industry.
I should not have to feel guilty answering the question. Get rid of the “appropriate” nonsense.
I should not be asked the question at all. Kill the levy surcharge. The next Government should have the political courage to raise and tier the Medicare Levy according to income.
Don’t reward people for switching to the private health system. That should provide its own rewards, without subsidy.
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