Poor will defer filling scripts if copay rises: AMA

$20, a calculator and a couple of coins

Disadvantaged people may defer filling scripts if the Coalition is returned to Government following this weekend’s election and it implements a proposed copayment increase, AMA president Dr Michael Gannon says.

Dr Gannon told journalists in Canberra today that they would be impacted by the Medicare rebate freeze if GPs who currently bulk bill feel forced to start charging more, but that they would also face problems at the pharmacy level.

“We know that the neediest in our community will defer accessing care,” Dr Gannon said.

“We know that they will defer going to specialist appointments, having ultrasounds or x-rays, perhaps filling prescriptions. That’s our concern.

“What we’ve heard a lot from the Prime Minister in this campaign is working out ways that those who can afford to contribute to their healthcare are doing so. The AMA is not against that. We know that the Government, whoever they’re elected, faces a massive deficit and we need to get smarter as to how we fund the health system.

“But what we must have is protections for the neediest in the community.

“So there are some people who literally can’t afford to pay $5 for a prescription. Of concern, if the whole family is sick, or if you are talking about someone who is on a number of medications, it might add up to five, ten, 15, 20 dollars.

“We need to find a way to sustainably fund our health system; at the same time we need to find a way to protect those who need our protection.”

GPs are at breaking point, he said, and it is likely that many will begin charging as much as $15 or $20 per patient.

“The ability to continue to provide a quality service at the level of the patient rebate is nearly over,” Dr Gannon said.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said last month that the proposed copayment increase of $5 for general prescriptions and 80 cents for concessional prescriptions remains on the table and would be re-examined with a view to getting it through the Senate should the Coalition win a second term in government.

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