A commission created 18 months ago to examine Australia’s services for people with disabilities has recommended establishing a national disability insurance system.
In its final report released July 31, the Productivity Commission recommended creating a no-fault insurance system by 2015, following a one-year trial in Australia’s Victoria region, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The program, which would cost an estimated $6.3 billion per year, would affect about 360,000 people per year.
The proposed insurance system would be paid for by all taxpayers, similar to Medicare, Australia’s system of universal health care.
Australia’s disability insurance system currently consists of different insurance system in each of its five states and three territories.
The report follows an interim report released in February, which called Australia’s disability support system “underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient” and criticized the country’s government for failing to provide adequate alternative living arrangements for people with disabilities following the closure of the county’s large-scale institutions in the 1980s.
The report also recommended a National Injury Insurance Scheme, which would cost an estimated $685 million per year, to provide lifelong health care for people who have catastrophic injuries.
Both Gillard’s coalition and the opposition Labor party have previously expressed support for a national disability insurance program.
The report was released one day after Prime Minister Julian Gillard proposed sweeping reforms to Australia’s Disability Support Pension that could result in as many as 40 percent of recipients losing their benefits.
Under the proposed changes, the first changes to the disability eligibility standards since 1993, benefits would be more selective for people with hearing aids and back pain, obesity and chronic pain would no longer be considered grounds in themselves for eligibility for benefits, and new mental health guidelines would be created. The pension provides support to 815,000 individuals, a figure that has increased by about 100,000 during the past two years.