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HOSPITAL BENEFITS No complexities exist in the application of the new Fede ral hospital benefits scheme to private institutions.' This part of the scheme will start today and patients in private hospitals who are members of approved insurance bodies will receive an additional 28/ a week from the Common wealth, making £4/4/ a week, to help them to meet their bills. Public hospitals, how ever, are another matter since they involve State financial assistance. The State legisla tion passed last month did not settle any details. It simply authorised the Premier to terminate the present hos pital benefits agreement with the Commonwealth and to enter into the proposed new one. The main problem that will have to be resolved by the Commonwealth and States before public hospitals can be brought into the scheme is the extent of the States' liability for hospital main tenance. In 1950-51 the average cost of maintaining a bed in a West Australian public hospital was 41/ a day and it is bound to be higher this year. The Common wealth has undertaken to find 12/ a day for insured patients, insurance benefits are expected to be about 9/, leaving 20/ or more to, be found by the State Treasury and the patient.. There is also the question of State assistance for people who elect, as it were; to carry their own insurance and to accept only 8/ a day in sub sidy. Too much help would reduce the incentive to insure. Evidently it is intended to reimpose the means test (ex cept in special cases) but this does not necessarily mean that there will be heavy de mands on insured patients. The State Minister for Health (Dame Florence Cardell Oliver) has said that the benefits will leave the major ity of insured patients with only a few shillings to pay out of their own pockets, which suggests that the States will find most of the difference between total benefits and hospital costs. At present, they have to meet all costs in public wards in excess of 8/, so that they stand to gain under the new scheme. It is clear, how ever, that there can be no finality until the States' com mitments have been deter mined, presumably in accord ance with Federal policy.. The West Australian Govern ment could refuse to accept the Commonwealth proposals but, as Dame Florence said in Parliament, "such refusal would be viewed with mis giving by the Grants Com mission and, in any case, would be foolish." It would also make more difficult the introduction of a national contributory health scheme, embracing both the care and treatment of the sick.

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