In ongoing discussions with doctors’ groups, the Health Minister has hinted at unfreezing the rebate in the May budget
The Medicare rebate freeze has been in place since 2013 and keeps rebates at $37, forcing patients to pay more out-of-pocket costs when visiting their GP.
Currently the freeze is set to be in place until at least July 2020, although signs are pointing to change under Minister for Health Greg Hunt with the Federal Government keen to avoid another ‘Medicare’ campaign.
Minister Hunt told Sky News he has been working with AMA president Dr Michael Gannon and RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel on a long-term plan for Medicare, and they are close to a deal on the Medicare rebate freeze.
The government has a “rock solid commitment to Medicare and to bulk billing”, the Health Minister has reiterated over the past few months.
“I think it has been emphasised to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and myself that it is very important that we listen to the Australian public – they believe in Medicare, but we do too,” he told Sky News.
“We are looking at an accommodation where we work with them on long-term support for Medicare and for the doctors in return for ways of making our system more sustainable, and ultimately that’s about improving patient access to doctors,” he says.
“I am very confident, very confident that we will reach an outcome which is positive for the medical profession, and positive for the sustainability of Medicare, and most significantly, improves patient outcomes.”
Speaking about his discussions with Minister Hunt, Dr Gannon said over the weekend that they have been meeting “about undoing the patient rebate freeze”.
“Those conversations are ongoing. One thing the Minister will not be in any doubt about is the importance of undoing the freeze across the entire MBS, and how this affects not only GPs but other specialists, and how it affects the rest of the health system,” says Dr Gannon.
“I’ve agreed, on many occasions, to work constructively with the Minister. But a great start for the Minister, for the Prime Minister, to get the monkey off their back is to unravel the freeze across the entire MBS.”