Budget a mixed bag for mums

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The federal budget has delivered a mix of good and bad news for mums and mums to be. There’s good news in the form a taxpayer-funded paid parental leave scheme. But the global recession, which has hit the Australian economy heard, means it won’t begin until after the next election in 2011. There’ll also be more money for midwifery services, giving women greater access to the comprehensive care midwives provide during pregnancy, birth and in the months following. The government’s also promised a new national telephone support service for pregnant women and new mums.

On the downside, the budget has dealt a blow to women hoping to start or expand their families through IVF. A new cap will be imposed on subsidies for fertility treatments, meaning women who need numerous cycles will face big bills. Women whose obstetricians charge fees well above what the government considers reasonable will also be slugged extra in out of pocket expenses. And the rebate the government provides to offset the cost of private health insurance is also going to be means tested – some families will get less, others will miss out completely.

Here’s an overview of major budget announcements that might affect you:
   
PARENTAL LEAVE:

  • A government-funded parental leave scheme will be available from January 1, 2011.
  • Under the scheme, the primary carer of a new baby will be paid for 18 weeks at the minimum wage, which is currently $544 a week.
  • To qualify, parents who take the leave will have to have an income of less than $150,000 and have worked at least one day a week in the 10 months leading up to the baby’s birth.
  • The government scheme will be offered on top of those offered by employers.
  • But parents who take up the government offer will forfeit their right to claim the $5,000 baby bonus.
  • They also won’t be able to claim family tax payments for the 18-week period.

   
HEALTH INSURANCE:

  • Many mums and dads face losing some or all of the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.
  • The rebate will be means-tested, so the more you earn, the less you’ll get to offset health fund membership fees.
  • The rebate for individuals earning more than $75,000 and families on
    more than $150,000 a year will be cut to 20 per cent, down from 30 per
    cent.
  • Individuals earning more than $90,000 and couples on more than $180,000 will get a 10 per cent rebate.
  • The rebate disappears completely once an individual earns $120,000 and couples earn $240,000.
  • The government’s also made sure there are additional penalties for those who avoid joining private health funds.
  • The Medicare Levy Surcharge levied on those who don’t have insurance will rise from one per cent to 1.25 or 1.5 per cent depending on income.

   
MIDWIVES:

  • Mums will have greater choice in the type of care they opt for when having a baby.
  • The government will spend $120.5 million over the next four years expanding midwifery services across the country.
  • It means midwives will now be able to bill Medicare for their consultations, and they’ll be given professional indemnity insurance but won’t be covered for involvement in home births.
  • The Australian College of Midwives says the reforms will make it easier for women across the country to access midwifery care through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
  • A new 24-hour, telephone helpline and information service will also be set up to support mums, dads and their families before and after birth.

   
OBSTETRICS CARE/IVF:

  • The government says some specialists, including obstetricians and IVF providers, are charging exorbitant fees for their services.
  • As a result, it’s imposed a cap on subsidies available under the Medicare Safety Net.
  • Mums will need to check what their obstetricians charge to ensure it’s not well above the rate that Medicare will subsidise.
  • The same goes for new caps that will apply to IVF treatment.

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