Bulk billing blow as GP co-payment under consideration
BULK-billed “free” visits to the GP could be replaced with a $5 co-payment under proposals being considered by Tony Abbott’s Budget razor gang.
The end of free visits to the GP is designed to send a “price signal” to patients to avoid unnecessary visits to the doctor and to ensure the sick can get an appointment when they need to see a GP.
But the proposals under consideration would include exclusions for pensioners and concession-card holders.
One option would be to allow families “free” bulk-billed visits without an out-of-pocket cost after six to 12 visits a year.
A Commission of Audit established by the Abbott Government explicitly lists co-payments as an option for consideration, suggesting an investigation into “savings and appropriate price signals” such as the use of co-payments and “user-charging or incentive payments”.
It will report next month.
Asked directly if he would consider ending bulk billing by introducing a $5 co-payment for bulk-billed GP consultations, the Prime Minister refused to rule the option out.
“I am not going to start flagging what may or may not be in the Budget, other than to say we do need a massive fiscal repair job,” Mr Abbott said.
“And we are up to it, but the fiscal repair job starts with the sensible savings we took to the last election.”
The push to consider a new out-of-pocket fee for bulk-billed visits follows the Abbott Government’s pre-Christmas approval of the biggest increases to private health insurance rebates in nearly a decade.
The Hawke government briefly introduced a co-payment for bulk-billed GP visits in the 1990s to a storm of controversy, with opponents saying the measure undermined the universality of medicare.
Amid warnings that “six-minute medicine” is driving GPs at big clinics to encourage patients to book multiple visits to resolve complaints while families with sick children cannot find an appointment, a Commission of Audit is taking soundings on health spending.
Health Minister Peter Dutton said he wanted to ensure sick people could see a GP when they needed to.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said patients would be less likely to go to a doctor if it was more expensive.
“What you don’t want is for people not go to the doctor when they need to,” he said.
The Australian Centre for Health Research has urged the Government to consider a co-payment, saving the Budget $750 million over four years.
It argues that a co-payment could significantly reduce the number of GP visits.
So it was only a matter of time before the government will manage to squeeze yet more money out of families that are financially hard off. I just really can’t understand why people voted this clown into office! Actually I wonder what the informal vote count was!
Seriously people, you will pay for this in more ways than one… 😐
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