NFPs Reject Secret Co-Payment Talks
21 August 2014 at 10:05 am
National peak community and health consumer groups claim they have been left out of what amounts to ‘secret talks’ on the Federal Government’s proposed Medicare co-payment.
The Not for Profit groups have called on the Parliament to reject any deal struck by the Health Minister and the doctors union, declaring that a Medicare co-payment posed an unwarranted burden on the chronically ill and the most vulnerable in our community.
“Health and illness concerns us all and Health Minister Peter Dutton should be listening to voices in the community and groups representing all users of the health system,” CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
It’s understood that the Australian Medical Association has proposed an alternative co-payment arrangement to the Federal Government including exemptions for some patients, which the Minister for Health is having costed by his Department.
ACOSS and two major health consumer organisations, the Consumers Health Forum and CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, said that when it comes to health costs, “no decision about us should be taken without us”.
“We urge the Health Minister, Peter Dutton, to consult on the Medicare co-payment issue with groups representing all users of the health system, not just the doctors,” they said.
“We know that imposing a fee to see a doctor will lead to people putting off visits than can lead to early treatment which is the best health outcome, both for them and the community because later interventions are always more costly,” Dr Goldie said.
“It would hit poor and chronically ill people hardest, and exemptions would not go far enough. Many people would remain exposed and people on the lowest incomes will still face cost barriers.”
Consumers Health Forum CEO, Adam Stankevicius said the Government suggests the Medicare co-payment is a price signal for consumers.
“Price signals work for discretionary items. Health care is not discretionary,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that consumers have been left in the dark. Why is the minister restricting his negotiations with doctors, what about the people who will have to pay?
“At a Consumers Health Forum conference this week, leading health system experts suggested several ways Australia could make the health system more effective and save billions of dollars a year. We should be considering these options before slugging consumers with a $7 price hike,” Stankevicius said.
"At a time when so many countries across the world are working to achieve universal health care it is appalling that the Australian government is working to undermine the very same thing,” CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore said.
“Hopefully the Government will be held to account by those in the Senate who really understand that we need more than a 'safety net'.
“We all pay for visiting our doctor – it is not free – it's called Medicare. And it works pretty well,” he said.