1 May 2015
Australia’s general practice leaders remain united in opposition to the Federal Government’s freeze on Medicare rebates until 2018, warning that patients will face much higher out of pocket costs to see their GP.
United General Practice Australia (UGPA) maintain that freezing Medicare rebates for four years is simply winding back the Government's contribution to patients' healthcare costs.
GPs provide frontline healthcare services to every Australian and this increased out-of-pocket expense will pose an additional barrier to people accessing quality healthcare, driving increased hospital presentations and increased expenditure in the long-term.
General practice clinics operate as small businesses and face the same cost pressures as any other business such as staff wages, rent, electricity, maintenance and IT.
Unless general practices pass on these rising costs, the Government’s freeze on Medicare rebates will seriously impact on their viability, potentially resulting in the closure of practices in areas with already limited healthcare services such as rural and remote areas.
The freeze will also have an impact on Australia’s future GP workforce and will act as a disincentive for junior doctors to choose general practice as a career. There is a high risk that medical students will choose the financial safety of alternate specialities over the uncertainty of general practice.
The Federal Government can achieve cost savings in the Australian healthcare system by investing in general practice, supporting GPs in keeping patients well and avoiding more expensive hospital treatment.
UGPA will remain firm in its opposition of the freeze and will lobby for annual indexation on patient rebates to be reinstated immediately to protect the health of all Australians.