16 April 2019

Lifting the freeze might sound good but much more is needed

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have reiterated that while lifting the Medicare freeze is important, it does nothing to repair the damage caused by the de-valuing of GP services by successive governments and years of frozen patient rebates.

President of the RACGP, Dr Harry Nespolon, has called on all political parties to commit to setting and regularly and appropriately indexing patient rebates so that they accurately reflect the cost of providing crucial general practice services.   

“Both sides of politics have claimed the win on lifting the Medicare freeze if elected next month, but our patients need to see a real commitment to their care and general practice services,” Dr Nespolon said.

 “For years, over multiple governments by all sides of politics, patients have been disadvantaged by continued freezes and cuts to Medicare and general practice services. Something must be done to make sure patients don’t delay seeking care and that they are able to access the high quality healthcare provided by general practice.

“If the Medicare rebate rose with CPI since 2005, patients would now be eligible for a rebate of $42 instead of the current $38 for a standard GP consultation.

Both major political parties have announced an unfreezing of MBS items in recent health announcements, but much more is needed to ensure a patient can see their GP when they need to, not just when they can afford to.

 “Patients want to see their GP, and spend longer with them. What we need is for that to be supported so we can provide comprehensive healthcare rather than be pushed to only deal with urgent and acute presentations.

“GPs are uniquely placed in Australia’s healthcare system to provide comprehensive healthcare, and at a fraction of the cost of hospital and tertiary care.

General practice is Australia’s most accessed form of healthcare, with nearly 90% of all Australians visiting their GP each year. Despite this, funding for general practice represents only 7.4% of total government health expenditure including federal, state and local government expenditure.

The RACGP is leading a campaign during the federal election calling for improvements for how patients can access general practice and to assist in the reduction of out of pocket costs.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact:

John Ronan

Senior Media Advisor

Ally Francis

Media and Engagement Specialist