10 August 2007

Medicare address update competition

| Nemo
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The Chief Minister’s department is currently running a competition to encourage new ACT residents to update their medicare details. The medicare stats are apparently used to direct commonwealth funding to the ACT. There is a total prize pool of $20,000.

The competition is only open to people changing their address from a non-ACT address. This woud involve two categories of people:

– new arrivals who have never been a tax payer in the ACT
– people who have been here a while, and have not done the right thing and updated their details.

Should ACT taxpayers (who aren’t eligible to enter) be paying for this sort of promotion?

If a promotion of this kind is to run, should it be open to everyone in the ACT?

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There are numerous ways you can increase the reliability of medicare addresses without having a competition.

Introduce a question on tax returns – linked with the medicare levy.

Make it mandatory to show proof of change of address when updating car rego etc.

A competition is unreliable and the data will be outdated very quickly.

Gungahlin Al2:00 pm 13 Aug 07

This was subject of a discussion on 666 radio (and here) a few weeks back. The ABS use Medicare addresses to supplement their other stats to arrive at the population for ACT. In turn the population numbers determine the ACT share of GST revenues. Last count they found an additional 5000 people, bumping the population to 336,000.

So to answer your question about ACT funding this campaign Nemo – yes it is very much in the government’s interest to do so – I’m sure ACT tax/ratepayers subsidise far too much of the expenses of people over the border as it is. There was an article in CT over the weekend that Canberra Hospital alone is funding NSW residents to the tune of $100M.

The last time I tried to update my home address a few months back, the Medicare staffer replied “Your mailing address is registered as a PO Box, that’s fine. We don’t need your home address”.

How is this response sposed to accurately reflect resident numbers?

Has anyone else had this response from medicare?

The “right thing” would have to be one of those lovely grey areas where most people have a different idea of whats “right”. I personally was not suggesting the government should control people in any way. That would be a large step away from democracy towards more of a communist approach to government.

What’s this “right thing” you keep speaking of? You talk as though it’s a moral issue. Perhaps I don’t want them to “know where [I] live”?

I’m suspicious of people who think other people should be ‘controlled’.

But if you start getting into data matching between agencies, you are talking many millions of dollars in new infrasructure for a start to reclaim the 1 or 2 mill [to use GregW’s data] each year in lost revenue. Aside from that you will always have the gaggle of people that will claim breach of privacy act etc etc. It would NEED a system of penalties that is absolutely bullet proof, and can catch and process 100% of those that do the wrong thing. If you get that bullet proof system in place, just let Centrelink, Tax and the ABS have a chat and see how many people they find doing the wrong thing. In the millions i’m guessing.

But lets face it, do we trust our Local leaders to institute something like that and get it right? Is it wise to give 1 federal agency absolute rule over information, or will that increase the discrepancies between what the states/territories believe they are entitled to compared to what the commonwealth says they’re owed?

So is the long term strategy to have a competition each year?

When you move house you connect to Govt services, pay rates/lodge a rental bond, register your car, update the electoral roll. They know where you live.

Surely the better option would be for increased data matching between agencies and enforcable penalties for those who dont do the right thing.

Should ACT taxpayers (who aren’t eligible to enter) be paying for this sort of promotion?

I believe the budget put aside $150,000 for these promotions, I don’t remember exactly but the estimated GST revenue lost because of these new residents is on the order of a million or two each year. So yes, we should be funding the competition.

If current ACT residents were entitled to enter the promotion it would weaken the message.

If a promotion of this kind is to run, should it be open to everyone in the ACT?

let’s not beat around the bush here. I know several friends who live in Canberra but have their cars and personal addresses out of ACT due solely to car rego costs.

Go for rego cost partity with NSW (or maybe even cheaper), recover the costs elsewhere and watch what happens.

The ACT has a higher proportion of blow-ins and transients, so has less people registered to their current ACT address.

Hospital funding is allocated in part based on Medicare addresses. It’s good policy to spend a little to encourage people to register as being ACT-resident and get a lot more back from the C’wealth in funding. Letting people already registered in the ACT participate defeats the purpose.

[Why is this even an issue, isn’t it self-evident?]

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