24 September 2015
Australia’s general practice leaders say new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must immediately drop the freeze on patient Medicare rebates, or see patients face growing out of pocket costs and poorer health outcomes.
The freeze on patient Medicare rebates is expected to cut healthcare services by $1.3 billion over four years, with the cuts at the expense of patients and practices.
It follows a previous freeze on patient rebates for GP consultations in 2013 and will see Australia’s most vulnerable populations hit the hardest.
Members of UGPA said the freeze was a patient co-payment by stealth and will pose a significant barrier to patients accessing efficient and quality healthcare.
If patients delay seeing a GP because of cost, conditions will worsen and, in some cases, will lead more expensive hospital and emergency department care.
GPs see almost 85% of Australia’s population every year and are the most cost-efficient pillar of the healthcare system.
Members of United General Practice Australia (UGPA) also said the freeze added further burden to general practice supervisors, who have already experienced a freeze on training subsidies over the past few years and continue to absorb the costs of providing quality training.
The continuation of the freeze, coupled with the significant costs of supervision, is increasingly compromising the viability of general practices providing supervision and training for junior doctors, which they choose to take on as a service to their local community.
The freeze also has the potential to negatively impact Australia’s future GP workforce with junior doctors deterred from general practice as a career.
Investing in general practice will produce long term health savings and better outcomes for patients.
UGPA members have committed to continue to lobby the Federal Government to abandon the freeze and reinstate indexation on patient rebates to protect the health of all Australians.