Monday, December 31, 2007

New year price hikes, as if on cue

ANYONE with an air conditioner should cherish the relief today because the cost of running it is going to rise substantially in the new year.

Like the fireworks at midnight, we could set our watches by the price rises that herald the new year, and along with electricity, the cost of public transport, toll booths and health care will rise.

Energy bills will be the most significant of the new year price rises for Victorian consumers.

On January 1, Victoria's three biggest energy retailers — Origin Energy, AGL and TRUenergy — will charge up to 17% more for power, after the drought, increased demand and renewable energy targets pushed the cost of generating electricity to record highs.

An average household paying $945 annually for its power bill is likely to pay $1106 for consuming 6500 kilowatt hours of peak and off-peak electricity. A larger family could face a rise of about $220 annually.

Riding trams, trains and buses will be more expensive in January, with the the cost of public transport in Melbourne rising by about 20 cents per trip, with a zone 1, two-hour full fare going from $3.30 to $3.50, and a zone 1-and-2, two-hour ticket rising from $5.30 to $5.50.

And you will not escape the price rises by taking the car, with Citylink passes set to rise by 4.5%, with an e-tag day pass going up to $5.97 and a 24-hour pass rising to $11.45.

Health too, will get more expensive.

The amount you have to spend to be eligible for the Medicare Safety Net — under which the Government picks up 80% of medical costs after you've spent a certain amount in a year — will rise by $9.80 to $529.30 for concession card holders and $19.70 to $1058.70 for general patients.

It will also be harder to qualify for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net. The threshold for general patients will rise $82.80 to $1141.80 and for concession card holders it will go up $15.60 to $290.

The amount patients will have to contribute to the cost of subsidised medicines will go up 60 cents to $31.30 for general patients and 10 cents to $5 for concession card holders.

But it is not all bad news.

Several new drugs will attract subsidies from tomorrow, including Champix for those quitting smoking and Alimta for the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

And it will be easier to get eye treatment, with optometrists given the right to prescribe certain subsidised medications for the first time.


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