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14 May 2024

Federal Budget drops the ball for Australians struggling to afford essential healthcare

The Federal Budget provides little to no relief for Australians struggling to afford essential healthcare and won’t help the cost-of-living crisis, says the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). 

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the government has dropped the ball in its commitment to strengthen Medicare and reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients.  

“This budget has dropped the ball for Australians struggling to afford essential healthcare, and it’s a huge disappointment for GPs, practice teams, and our patients. The government took the first step to repair decades of devastating underfunding of Medicare and general practice care last year – now this work will stall. 

“Australians are already putting off essential care due to rising costs. This Budget won’t help, so out-of-pocket fees will increase. It will mean a sicker nation and more pressure on hospitals, which will cost the government much more.  

“There is no more support for rural and regional patients, or people with chronic conditions, which is where the need is greatest. It shows the government has the wrong priorities for fixing the health system.    

“Australians will be disappointed that Treasurer Jim Chalmers hasn’t seen the value in increasing Medicare rebates as a cost-of-living relief measure. The Medicare rebate belongs to patients – it’s the amount the government pays to subsidise their healthcare. This Budget says the government isn’t interested in ensuring the subsidies for healthcare for Australians are anywhere close to the real-life costs of providing that care. 

“There is no substitute for the quality care provided by a GP who knows you and your history. General practice helps people live healthier lives and stay out of hospital. The smartest and most cost-effective health investment government can make is increasing patients’ Medicare rebates, so they can access affordable care. 

“The lack of support to get more GPs in training is also disappointing and short-sighted. Australia has an ageing population and epidemic of chronic disease and mental illness, which means increasing demand for GP care. But only 10.5% of medical students are choosing to specialise as GPs. This Budget does nothing to reverse this trend, exacerbating a critical workforce shortage. 

“The RACGP trains 90% of Australia’s GPs, including more than 300 rural generalists and 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees. In the past 12-months, the College has filled 114 training places in areas of long term need that haven’t had a GP registrar for many years. We need government funding support to grow these numbers and get more GPs training in communities.   

“Urgent care clinics are not value for money. They are an inefficient use of limited health resources that will take years to roll out. They will disrupt the care people receive from their usual GP and redirect the limited GP workforce from regular practices where they are needed – worsening the workforce shortage. 

“This Budget also includes funding to extend existing Single Employer Model pilots until 2028. The RACGP acknowledges SEMs have a role to play in specific communities to address areas of workforce need. But a thorough independent evaluation is needed prior to any further rollout to properly test what works and what doesn’t. 

“The College acknowledges the $90 million funding to implement the recommendations in the independent Kruk review of Australia’s regulatory settings relating to overseas health practitioners. Negotiations on how this will be done are still underway. International medical graduates play a valuable role in Australia’s health system, but we need more funding to support Australian GPs in training.” 


Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via:

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