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Media release

$7 co-payment widens the gap to accessible healthcare

13 May 2014

The Federal Government is set to widen the gap to accessible healthcare with Australia’s most vulnerable to suffer following confirmation patients will be slapped with a GP tax.

The Government tonight confirmed in its Budget announcement that the much speculated and controversial general practice co-payment model will be implemented.

The measure will see Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates reduced by $5 and general practice patients charged a co-payment of $7 from 1 July 2015.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says the Government has failed to meet its promised commitment to those in the community with the greatest health needs. 

RACGP President, Dr Liz Marles said the Government has ignored evidence presented by the general practice profession that Medicare billings have remained constant for the past 20 years, with growth in expenditure occurring within the hospital sector.

“The majority of Australians are very worried about the harmful implications of a co-payment model on our communities, yet the Government has ignored those concerns.

“I have no doubt this will result in vulnerable patients choosing to delay or avoid general practice visits because they cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs. Healthcare is not discretionary spending.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those with mental illness and the homeless will be particularly hard hit, and often have the greatest healthcare needs.

“Every Australian should feel comfortable accessing clinically appropriate healthcare – regardless of location, cost or timing – something this model has completely undercut.

“By implementing this model, the Government has widened the healthcare gap to favour a two-tiered system that leaves the ‘have nots’ and the unwell even further disadvantaged,” said Dr Marles.

The RACGP is concerned the general practice co-payment will drive emergency presentations to a level that is financially unsustainable for the Government.

“This model will place undue pressure on the hospital system as patients who fail to seek care at a primary healthcare level experience more complex conditions,” said Dr Marles.

Further compounding this issue, the Government has removed restrictions on state and territory governments from charging patients presenting at public hospital Emergency Departments for general practice like attendances.

“The Government is seriously compromising every point of access to the Australian healthcare system.

“The administration of the co-payment is unclear, and likely to increase the red tape burden already being experienced in general practice,” said Dr Marles.

The RACGP is committed to achieving the best possible health outcomes for all Australians and will continue to advocate for a ‘Healthy Profession. Healthy Australia.’ 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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