Some aspects of this policy have started to become a lot clearer after discussions with a representative of the Department of Health, but there are still grave concerns about the implications of requiring that certain segments of Australian society (this check is only required for families who are eligible for the Family Tax Benefit Part A – in other words, those who have a lower income than the average) must comply with this policy and how these checks can be used by certain medicos to harass, abuse or victimise those who have made choices the doctor does not agree with.
Here is where all of this stands so far. I will be writing up a facsimile letter and giving out a list of politicians who need to be contacted to oppose this legislation and its implementation either today or tomorrow as well so please be ready to get involved with this initiative and to let others know about this as well.
Right now, due to the introduction of new legislation, anyone with a child aged between 4 and 5 years of age will be required to submit their child to a special medical examination in order to receive their Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement payment which is close to $800 from the government. This examination is basically a report card on your ability to parent your child ‘properly’ according to mainstream medicine. Next year, a mandatory mental health check will be added to the mix though as of Friday when I spoke with a representative of the Department of Health, they had no idea how this would be implemented – whether the checks would be performed by GPs or psychiatrists or specially-trained clinic nurses. Talk about legislation on the fly!
Now you MUST give your child all vaccines up to the age of 4 in order to get one of these Healthy Kids Checks (part of the Healthy Start to School initiative) but if you don’t vaccinate, you can still get the examination – you simply will not be able to get the same medicare rebate. This is a special medicare code which is used to reimburse doctors for this check since it is a long office visit and would generally cost more money. The government has agreed to pay this extra amount for the long visits as long as doctors use this code. They can ONLY use this code if your child is vaccinated up to the age of 4 years old – and many people will be getting the checks at the same time as they get their children vaccinated.
If you are not vaccinating or not vaccinating fully, the doctor can’t use the code but will have to use one of the other, regular codes and from what I understand, this may cost parents more money out of pocket.
Also, please read the following text which is concerning:
In circumstances where a parent/guardian chooses not to immunise their child, the Healthy Kids Check cannot be provided as a service for which an MBS rebate may be claimed. A medical practitioner may choose to provide a service that mirrors the Healthy Kids Check, but that service would not be regarded as a Healthy Kids Check for the purpose of Medicare billing.
It is left up to the doctor to choose whether or not to provide a service that mirrors the healthy kids check but if they don’t choose to do so, then the visit will most likely cost the parents quite a bit out of pocket. Since many doctors have become quite abusive to families who have chosen not to vaccinate, I can imagine that we may see a lot of parents paying quite a bit of money to get these checks performed in order to get their supplementary payment.
There are a couple of questions that I have which the contact at the Department of Health says she will be looking into and get back to me on.
Has the government put in place exemptions for religions which do not ever see medical doctors such as Christian Scientists?
How does a parent let the government know that the Health Check has been completed? Is there a form that needs to be filled in and is the doctor required by law to fill this in if the parents present for the health check? (believe it or not, there was no immediate answer to these two questions which seem to me at least, to be pretty basic!)
It seems that these Health Checks for parents who were receiving certain government payments have been around and included in the health budget for some time now. Parents were not using them though so the government has decided to make them mandatory. Unfortunately however, neither the government nor the Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (who is administering this policy) have considered the implications of this potentially quite discriminatory policy. To me, this policy resembles the Northern Territory’s aboriginal intervention where a group is targeted due to their social or economic status and – due to the all-encompassing nature of the intervention – will help some but may harm others who are innocent of any wrongdoing.
Aside from the issues of religious freedom which must take precedence over government requirements such as this, there are the following points which will need to be addressed:
What if a parent brings their child to see the doctor and for whatever reason (the child is unvaccinated, he or she is being raised a vegetarian, the mother home-birthed or is using extended breastfeeding etc.) the doctor does not agree with the parenting of this particular child. What is in place to stop this doctor from stating that they feel this is an at-risk child and the parents need to do what they are told (vaccinate, feed meat, stop breastfeeding, etc.)? What is to prevent this doctor from reporting the family to the Department of Community Services (DOCs) since it only takes the word of one doctor to ruin a family forever and there have been many examples of this happening before. I have seen this happen without the backing of legislation – how much more likely is it to occur when the legislation is there and the parents are going to be forced to front up to a GP?
I asked the representative I spoke with this question. Her answer was that it would be unfortunate if such overzealous behaviour were to be displayed but that parents would need to seek out a doctor who agrees with their health and parenting philosophies and who they feel comfortable with. I told her that there are many doctors like this in Australia but that most of them have waiting lists of 6 months or more and some have even closed their books for new patients. She had no answer for this except to stress that parents needed to be cautious about who they choose to see.
She said a notification that a child is ‘at risk’ was supposed to only be for emergency situations, but you reading this and I know very well that there are some doctors out there who are so arrogant, they believe their opinions are the only ones that matter and parents who don’t listen to their advice are obviously not doing the best by their children so those children need to be taken away.
The representative suggested that I read through the various Health Department Charters and the Charters on Patient Rights which are available in each state. I now have a list of willing volunteers who I hope to put to work doing just that this week to see if there is any information that can be used to help protect families against any of these abuses by the medical profession. The best result, however, would be to overturn this legislation and get rid of the legal requirement for families to take their children for these health checks.
Below is a link to a flyer that has been prepared for parents by the government on the requirement to get this Health Check for your child. There are links to the legislation and the ‘template’ of questions that doctors will be asking parents on an earlier blog. Please consider sharing this blog with friends and family members and, when the facsimile letter has been finished, sending a copy off to the politicians noted as the more people who write, the greater the effect will be when we lobby Parliament next month.