The $5 copayment to see a GP has been scrapped – but there’s no word yet on whether increased copayments on PBS scripts will stay.
The Public Health Association of Australia, Australian Health Care Reform Alliance and the Australian Council of Social Service welcomed the scrapping of the Medicare co-payment and congratulate the new Minister Susan Ley on assisting the Government to see the value in doing so.
However 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, they say, and this could have just as much impact on low income and ill Australians.
“While nothing is off the table for the government, Minister Sussan Ley hasn’t said anything about an increase in PBS co-payments today and not even when she was asked by some of us when we met her a couple of weeks ago,” says PHAA CEO Michael Moore.
“We are of course watching this area carefully.”
“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,” says Tony McBride, Chair of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance.
“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.”
Moore says the recent meeting with the Minister examined 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,” he says.