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Media release

Co-payment not yet implemented – Patients advised not to defer seeing GP

22 May 2014

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) urges patients to continue to see their GP and not be deterred by the $7 co-payment as it is yet to be implemented.

The Federal Government last week introduced the controversial proposed co-payment measure which will see patients charged a minimum $7 co-payment for general practice services, sparking concern that Australia’s most vulnerable will be unable to access clinically appropriate healthcare services.

The co-payment measure will not be implemented until 1 July 2015, and only if it is passed through the Senate.

RACGP Vice-President, Adjunct Professor Frank Jones said since the announcement, many general practices are seeing patients cancel existing appointments, choosing to delay seeing their GP or attending hospital emergency rooms.

“Many patients believe the co-payment is already in effect, however this is not true. It is vitally important that every patient continues to access healthcare services when it is required.

“Hospital emergency rooms have seen an increase in patients presenting for conditions that could be treated at a general practice level to avoid paying the co-payment.

“GPs are still available and should continue to be patients’ first point of contact.

“It is concerning that patients’ behaviour towards accessing healthcare has changed so rapidly following the announcement and is further anecdotal evidence that this policy will not work.

“If patients choose to delay or forgo a visit to the GP because of the out-of-pocket expense, it is inevitable that the sick will continue to get sicker.

“This will only exacerbate a reliance on the hospital system and cost the Government more money longer term,” said A/Prof Jones.

The RACGP is aware of some general practices having to resort to letting their patients know via SMS or email that the co-payment does not start until next year.

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding the co-payment model from GPs and patients with conflicting messages on what services will incur the fee and what won’t.

“The Government has the responsibility of clarifying the intricacies of the co-payment model; however it is further compounding the issue with ill-informed and inaccurate messages.

“GPs have been forced to take on the role of communicators to patients on this model, yet they too have not been provided with sufficient information from the Government as to the administration of the co-payment,” said A/Prof Jones.

To alleviate some of the confusion, the RACGP has developed advice for GPs on how the co-payment will be administered.

In response to the Government’s decision to implement a $7 co-payment for general practice services, the RACGP has launched an awareness campaign – #CoPayNoWay – to express our serious concern for the abolishment of universal healthcare in Australia.

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