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May 11, 2004

Budget provides funds for carers, Cochlear implants

From: ABC Online - Australia - May 11, 2004

By Clarissa Thorpe for ABC News Online

The federal Budget has outlined a number of health initiatives, including added assistance for carers and spending to cut the waiting list for Cochlear implants for profoundly deaf children.

In addition, the Government says it has thrown its support behind a new diabetes treatment which removes the need for sufferers to have regular injections.

The insulin infusion pumps mean people get a steady supply of insulin throughout the day.

In his Budget speech, Treasurer Peter Costello said: "The consumables associated with using these pumps cost around $2,400 per year, which is paid by the person with diabetes.

"The Government will provide funding of $15 million over four years, so most users will face costs of less than $200 annually."

The Budget allocates funds for a one-off payment of $1,000 to 80,000 Australians receiving a Carer Payment and $600 to 300,000 who receive the Carer Allowance.

It extends the Carer Allowance so that it will now be paid to carers who do not live with the person they are caring for, benefiting about 13,000 carers.

"These people are devoted to those who need help to look after themselves," Mr Costello said. "We can afford to pay it and they deserve it."

The Government also provides extra funding to give carers better access to respite services.

The carers' changes will cost a total of just over $460 million.

Profoundly deaf children will be able to access Cochlear implant speech processors quickly with funding to speed up the waiting list. The Government says $8 million over four years is expected to almost eliminate the waiting list in the next financial year.

The Government has confirmed it remains committed to the current 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.

It has also announced an injection of $85 million for Medibank Private, which will remain in Government ownership.

© 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation