Government Backdown on Medicare Rebate Changes
15 January 2015 at 3:16 pm
The Federal Government has done a backflip announcing it will scrap its controversial plans to cut the Medicare rebate for short medical appointments set to come into force next week.
The move was announced by new Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley who said in Melbourne that the “the changes to Level A and B Medicare consultation items will not commence on Monday as planned. The Government is taking them off the table.”
However Minister Ley said the Government would continue to consult on Medicare reform to keep it sustainable.
“The Government is responding to concerns that have been raised about the new Medicare measure to improve patient care and tackle the problem of ‘six minute medicine’,” she said.
“Changes to Level A and B GP consultation items will be taken off the table and will not commence on Monday 19 January.
“As the new Health Minister, I am announcing that I will be undertaking wide ranging consultation on the ground with doctors and the community across the country in order to come up with sensible options to deliver appropriate Medicare reforms.”
The Federal Government was under attack from medical and community organisations for the planned reduction of $20 in the medicare rebate for consultations under 10 minutes.
The Australian Medical Association sent the Prime Minister a strongly worded letter warning of the consequences of the changes.
“I have spoken to key medical groups this morning to inform them of the Government’s decision and my commitment to continuing to consult with them and their members,” Minister Ley said.
“The Government is committed to encouraging doctors to spend more time with patients where appropriate, whilst ensuring that taxpayers’ dollars are effectively targeted.
As the Australian Medical Association and the Labor Party have acknowledged, it is important to shift away from ‘six minute medicine’ so that appropriate, comprehensive care is better rewarded over patient throughput.
“Longer consultation times are associated with better health outcomes for patients. Doing nothing is not an option.
“Medicare expenditure should more accurately reflect the time a GP spends with a patient.
“In the last decade, spending on Medicare has more than doubled from $8 billion in 2004 to $20 billion today, yet we raise only $10 billion from the Medicare levy. Spending is projected to climb to $34 billion in the next decade to 2024.
“Medicare will not survive in the long term without changes to make it sustainable,” she said.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that despite backing down on their savage cut to the Medicare rebate, the Government has recommitted to its GP Tax.
“This latest shambles shows Tony Abbott cannot be trusted with Medicare,” Shorton said.
“Just one month ago Minister Ley’s failed predecessor replaced his ‘to be legislated’ GP Tax with a GP Tax through the backdoor, before fleeing the portfolio.
“And only yesterday Tony Abbott was insisting the new GP Tax by stealth would not be abandoned.”