The Abbott Government’s first Budget has declared war on Medicare. Introducing a $7 GP Tax for all patients, including pensioners and concession card holders, will cost over $1.4 billion to communities outside of metropolitan centres.
“In the Illawarra, bulk-billing rates are over 86 per cent. Tony Abbott’s GP Tax could cost local families over $13.4 million* in the first year alone”, said Jones.
“This is on top of the Government’s plan to charge more for prescriptions and increase the PBS Safety Net, which means a general patient and their family have to fork out around $145.30 more to reach the Safety Net before they can access medicines at the concessional rate.
“These taxes and price hikes are a clear broken promise, but what’s worse is that they just won’t work.
“More than a million Australians living in regional areas like the Illawarra already struggle to access the basic medical care most city dwellers take for granted.
“Slugging patients with a GP Tax and hiking the price of their medications will only exacerbate inequalities between those who live in the city and those who do not.
In 2011 the National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health found that patients outside major cities were more likely to be admitted to hospital for conditions that could have been prevented through access to GP non-hospital services and care.
“This will mean more people queuing for access in regional hospitals like Wollongong Hospital”, said Stephen Jones.
“The biggest health issue we face in regional Australia is access to GP and specialist services. We pay more in transport to visit a health provider and they are less likely to bulk-bill.
“It’s not like people go to the doctor because they’re bored. People go to the doctor because they are sick. Because they need medication.
“People in rural and regional Australia choose to see a doctor when they’re at their most vulnerable – and now Tony Abbott is wants to tax them for it.
“Labor rejects the Americanisation of the Australian health system. It’s unfair, ill-conceived and bad for regional Australia.”
*Total figure based on a $7 fee applied to all un-referred (GP) attendances during 2013 in electorates classified by the AEC as ‘provincial’ or ‘rural’.