Medicare must be accessible to prisoners
I see prisons where hearts are broken; The brief light of life was extinguished.
It is my experience that, in general, people come out of prisons in worse conditions than they did when they initiated the situational trauma of incarceration.
Be patient with the things of this world, it is said all too often. Waiting makes the affected look old before their time. We imprison as before, demanding to be silent in the dark.
Health inequalities and discrimination are rampant in 132 prisons in this country. About 45,000 inmates are denied Medicare. Therefore, Medicare is not universal as it is said.
Inmates, old and young, and children under the age of ten are denied Medicare. Filled with tears again and again, the unexplained cry, unblemished sorrow remains hidden inside until it is over.
In addition, jailed people are denied access to the Pharmaceuticals Benefit Scheme and access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme with disastrous implications.
It is established and clear, almost all prisoners in Australia are among the lowest-income people. Additionally, they also include the quintet of the weakest primary and secondary health.
The Australian Labor Party argues that Medicare is universal and has sometimes included a promise to end incarcerated health discrimination in its national policy platforms. They have yet to do so.
The captive’s situational trauma should never escalate and accumulate further trauma. Health equality advocates argue that prisoners should have access to at least the same level of healthcare as everyone else.
My daughter, Connie, has coordinated a campaign in recent years to ensure that those in prison have access to Medicare. They also come with high rates of untreated diseases and poor health and prisons must be at least as transformative. “Catchup” should be an obligation on health, addressing physical ailments, improving their overall health and addressing psychosocial issues and their psychological well-being. They will be less likely to attack again.
I describe prisoners who complained of pain for months and years, because those who had to pay attention did not. He was not referred but given “paracetamol”. His cancer spread.
Medicare is a health funding stream used by every Australian to ensure rapid access to critical services.
For a decade, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has advocated for prisoners to maintain their Medicare rights.
‘Loss of Medicare and PBS entitlements while in prison exacerbates the cycle of malaise experienced by inmates and detainees.’
In addition, the AMA also emphasizes that the quality of healthcare has an undeniable impact on a person’s rehabilitation:
“Poor health care in prisons results in prolonged periods of poor physical and mental health.”
State and regional governments were made responsible for the provision of health care in prisons.
Commonwealth Health Insurance Act (1973) A clause is included to prevent “dual-dipping” of medical services. It was assumed that states and territories would fund equitable access to health services and build internal health systems in prisons. They do not.
The federal government has an opportunity to try and live up to its “leave no one behind” claim.
More than half a million Australians – one in 50 – have been jailed. Poor health marginalizes people into unemployment and underemployment.
ALP argues ‘All Australians have the right to the best possible health’.
There is no greater discrimination than health inequality. It will be hard for many readers to believe that health rights like Medicare and PBS have not been extended to Australia’s 44,000 imprisoned adults and nearly 1,000 imprisoned children. There has long been silence about this deadly inequality. When will we speak out about this brutal injustice and call to love one another?
I’m reminded of Desmond Morris’s book, human zoo, His description of the oppressed townspeople in the dense concrete jungles, debilitated. In fact, the biggest concrete jungles are the prisons where I think the affected are abused as were once “lepers” who were held captive to demons and constant brutal persecution. There is nothing redeeming about prisons.
Some of our restorative work in adult and children’s prisons allowed us to see the effects of health disparities, the effects of Medicare. There are endless horror stories of untreated infections that lead to amputations and worse death.
With the criminal age of responsibility still at age 10, imprisoned elementary school-aged children are denied Medicare.
Each prison should have a general practitioner on site, with whom Medicare can bulk bills. Prisoners have higher rates of co-morbidities than the general population, higher rates of disabilities, higher rates of acute mental health conditions, and even higher rates of First Nations inmates. One in six First Nations peoples have experienced captivity.
Prisoners are nearly three times as likely to have an acute mental health condition and up to 15 times more likely to have a mental disorder than other Australians. First Nations prisoners are once again hostages at high rates.
With First Nations individuals accounting for about 30 percent of the national prisoner population, as well as having a high susceptibility to health issues, the health care “catchup” in prison is a missed opportunity.
Half a century has passed and Medicare (Medicare in its first iteration) hasn’t really been universal across Australia. It would only require moral political will. The federal health minister has the power to make Medicare available to prisoners immediately. Simple legal amendments can guarantee universality.
Gary Georgetos is a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @GerryGeorgatos,
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.