Image for Life–support turned off

Some people on life-support equipment have had to turn their electrical machines off; others are struggling to keep it turned on.

The electricity life-support rebate was introduced in January 2002 and the life-support discounts are still at the same monetary rates that were set at the time they were introduced over eleven years ago.

Power prices and other costs have blown out since 2002 and these added costs are hurting our most vulnerable people.

There have been at least twelve cumulative power increases since early 2002.

Patients on life-support equipment at home cannot afford to use it as prescribed by their specialists. The only solution left for these severely disadvantaged people is to turn their equipment off, or reduce its use. Neither is an acceptable option.

Life support patients are already suffering greatly in other ways because of their special needs. How un-Australian is this treatment of someone spending the last of their life on life-support?

A rebate is available to people who are eligible on medical grounds and have a life support machine installed, or live with someone who uses a life support machine.

This applies to patients ona respirator (iron lung,) oxygen concentrator, peritoneal dialysis machine, haemo-dialysis machine, chronic positive pressure and airways regulator (CPAP), phototherapy, and OXCP equipment.

Prior to 2002 the rise in electricity prices was relatively flat.

However, between 2003 and June 2011 the rate of growth in light and power unit costs substantially outpaced increases in prices more generally, meaning that there has been a significant increase in electricity prices as a component of the cost of living.

The two step charges in 2004 and 2007 pushed the rate of growth in light and power prices significantly above the growth in earnings.

Many life-support patients by nature happen to be low income families.

In 2010-2011 there was an increase of 15%. In 2011-2012 there was an increase of 11%, and in 2012 there was an increase of 10.6%

The start date for Full Retail Competition is 1/1/2014 and the life-support discount has not been set yet by Treasury. Additional electrical equipment such as air purifiers and nebulizers must also be taken into account.

Promises of a ‘modest increase’ in 2014 are too little and too far in the future for these people to count on. Every day has now become a trial for these people and their families.

I call on all our government members to immediately make retrospective back-payments to these home patients so they can use their life-support equipment as prescribed, and to compensate them for what they have had to go without because they were cruelly forgotten for more than a decade.

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