The Turnbull Government’s GP Tax by stealth – the freezing of the Medicare rebate – has claimed another victim, this time in the Southern Highlands.
The Bowral Medical Clinic has been forced to end its practice of bulk billing pensioners and children because of the impact of the Government’s rebate freeze. The clinic has been bulk billing for over 15 years but will no longer be doing so from Monday 4 July.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones, has warned that more and more GP practices in the region will follow suit.
“The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, has extended the rebate freeze all the way to 2020, a decision that has placed GPs like Dr Parker here at the Bowral clinic in an impossible position.
“They can either charge their patients an additional co-payment, something that many doctors know their patients simply can’t afford, or face the prospect of shutting up shop.
“Clinics like this one in Bowral have had their hand forced. They have bulk billed for years but just can’t continue to do so with the rebate freeze in place.”
Stephen Jones said that the freeze would result in consequences that will hurt the entire health care system.
“The risk is that some patients in the Southern Highlands, and right across Australia, will stop visiting local GPs like Dr. Parker.
“As a result, their conditions may worsen and they will present in hospital emergency departments with health problems that could and should have been dealt with earlier by their doctor. No one wins in this scenario, a single night in a hospital bed can cost over $3,000.
“We are sleep walking towards disaster. GP clinics in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands will be asking hard questions of their finances and many, we fear, will stop bulk billing.
“It comes on top of the Government’s plans for patients to pay more for prescription medicines and to end bulk billing incentives for x- rays and blood tests. Those doing it tough will avoid tests that could save their life.
“The Australian Medical Association warned this week that patients will be hit with fees of up to $25 if the Government is re-elected. Is this really the sort of future we want?” said Mr Jones.