Co-Payment Change Welcome But Sting Still in The Tail – NFPs
Wednesday, 4th March 2015 at 11:37 am
A grouping of key community, consumer and health groups have welcomed the scrapping of the Medicare co-payment by the Government but warn the issue of increased fees is not over yet.
The group, the Public Health Association of Australia, Australian Health Care Reform Alliance and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), said the freeze on GP Medicare rebates still carries a significant danger of forcing GPs to raise their fees as the bite continues over the coming years.
“This could have just as much impact on low income and ill Australians,” the group’s statement said.
“We welcome the removal of the co-payment because it shows the Government has recognised that there was no health rationale for deterring people from using GPs and other primary health care services,” Chair of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance, Tony McBride said.
“However we urge Minister Ley to develop a process of consultation and development to create a longer-term set of feasible and sustainable options for funding health care, especially primary health care, that is efficient, but also reflects Australians’ values and does not impinge on the people’s health.”
“This is where some key preventive activities occur and where illness can be diagnosed early and care provided before it gets more serious. However the freeze on GP payments will force them to introduce co-payments over time, having the same effect. Our grouping of community, consumer and health groups calls on the Government to end this now, rather than in 2018.”
CEO of Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore said the group understood that there was some pressure to contain future spending and it recently met with the Minister to suggest a range of areas where efficiencies could be found instead of hitting consumers.
“Such measures include reducing hospital care at end of life when further (often expensive) treatment is futile and consumers don’t want it, reducing unnecessary prescription of medications, reducing over-use of radiology and pathology testing where evidence does not support its use, better negotiation of pharmaceutical prices by the PBS, and a range of others,” Moore said.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister announced the $7 GP co-payment included in last year’s Federal Budget was now “dead, buried and cremated”.
However Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten said “no-one thinks he's dropped it because he really thinks it's a bad idea”.
“He's dropped it because he's under pressure for his job and there's a New South Wales election on and it's costing them votes. And the reason why I don't believe that they've really dropped it is that yesterday the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, said she that she stood behind the policy intent,” Shorten said.
“She said the policy intent was and remains a good one. She went even further. She says there's a lot of people who attend a doctor who pay nothing and can afford to pay a bit more.”