A Labor Government would scrap the increased copayment for prescription medicines, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten reiterated at the Press Club yesterday.
The proposed increase to copayments – by 80 cents for concessional patients and $5 for general patients – was introduced, along with an increase to the Safety Net Threshold during the 2014 Budget. Since then both measures have languished, not passed by the Senate.
“We have decided to scrap the price-hike for prescription medicine,” Shorten told journalists yesterday.
“It’s just a values decision. We decided to scrap the tax cut for large multinationals and we’ve decided instead to use some of that money to scrap the price hike in medicine.
“It’s just who we are in Labor. We prioritise the healthcare of Australians.”
Labor also plans to “unfreeze” the Medicare rebate for seeing a GP, to protect the bulk billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology, and to increase the hospital funding package.
“We’re putting back $12.5 billion in GP rebate freeze, $12.2 billion,” Mr Shorten said.
“We’re putting something up like $2.9 billion in terms of the diagnostic imaging and bulk billing cuts. We’re putting up $3.6 billion when it comes to the PBS price freeze.”
Shorten also said that if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull really wanted to guarantee Medicare, he would take similar measures.
“Medicare funding is not guaranteed. If you get a freeze on the GP rebates for six years, a third of doctors according to the Royal College of GPs will have to stop bulkbilling.
“If you are increasing the price of medicine, you are making it harder to have universal medical healthcare.
“If you’re getting rid of the bulkbilling incentives for X-rays, for blood tests, you’re making it harder for people to access universal affordable healthcare.
“If Mr Turnbull really wanted to guarantee Medicare, this is what he should do – unfreeze the rebate, don’t go ahead with the price hike for medicine, reinstate the bulkbilling incentive.”
Health Minister Sussan Ley told the ABC’s Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast last month that the increased copayment was still on the Coalition agenda.
“The measure is on the table and the reason why is that we are taking a responsible path back to a surplus,” she said at the time.