Senate inquiry hears that newstart recipients can’t afford medicine

Released on 20th November 2019

Victoria’s leading not-for-profit health provider, cohealth, will today tell the Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart payments that people on Newstart are forced to ration medicine and can’t afford medical appointments.

“Working with people experiencing disadvantage we see firsthand the health impacts of living on Newstart, an income that leaves people living below the poverty line,” says Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.

Ms Bartholomeusz will tell the Committee that cohealth has heard direct accounts of Newstart recipients:

  • Being unable to afford medications – particularly for those with multiple conditions
    • Rationing medications (e.g. one patient who will not take his medication for depression as sinus meds take precedence so he can breathe)
  • Not being able to afford specialist appointments. Wait times for public specialists can be years, during which time health deteriorates significantly
  • Not being able to afford allied health treatment that requires co-payment. Even small co-payments are out of reach for people on Newstart
  • Unable to afford dental care. Public dental waiting lists of up to years results in pain, worsening conditions, hospitalisations, loss of teeth
  • Experiencing ongoing stress and anxiety has a significant impact on mental health
  • Delaying care resulting in pain, worsening conditions and complications.

“It’s shameful that people in a prosperous country can’t afford appropriate healthcare when and where they need it,” says Ms Bartholomeusz.

“The woefully low rate of Newstart creates a sub-class of poorer, sicker Australians. It runs counter to all that we know about the importance of prevention and early intervention in health care.

“We are urging an immediate increase to the Newstart Allowance of no less than $75 per week, in line with calls other community services, business groups and unions.

“This will not only provide economic relief for the many Australians locked out of paid work, it will deliver significant benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing and prevent much more costly treatment down the line.”

— Ends —

more information:  Lanie Harris 0418 552 377

more on cohealth:

cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.

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