Means testing Disability Care won’t save any money this budget, but it will in future budgets.
And because of the improvident promises that Labor and Liberal made in the election campaign, future budgets are going to be just as difficult to manage as this one, if not more so.
Effectively the public at the last election agreed to a transfer of some wealth from most of us to those who are at school or disabled. I’m not sure that the public understood that is what Gonski and Disability Care stood for, but that’s politics.
While the “I” in the original NDIS stood for “insurance” (National Disability Insurance Scheme), it never was an insurance scheme, just another welfare program.
Now that it has been rebadged it might be thought to be like Medicare, but Medicare is actually tied to a levy in the tax system, and there will be no disability levy.
In which case I can see no reason to pretend that Disability Care is anything other than a welfare measure. And one thing we’ve gotten very good at in Australia is tightly targeted welfare, via means tests.
If the old age pension, which is essentially meant to deal with the disability called “old age” can be means-tested, why not Disability Care. Disability is not something that sets someone apart from the human race.
Like any part of the human condition it can strike anyone at any time.
If Jamie Packer had fallen on that brick fence in Bondi the other day and broken his back rather than a tooth, he could have been disabled. But I see no reason for the state to give him a disability benefit, any more than they will fix his teeth. He ought to be entirely self insured.
For it to work any other way means that money is being transferred from those of us with less who have other costs to bear to meet a cost he, and others much poorer than him, but still far richer than average, can also bear themselves.
Come to think of it, that is an approach that could be expanded to Medicare. The Medicare Levy only covers somewhere around one-quarter of the cost of Medicare.
Perhaps those who earn more than a certain amount of money could lose the ability to claim more on Medicare than they have contributed through their levy.
The alternative is to take the means test of everything else. And that hardly seems fair.