Last week we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the new Health Minister, Susan Ley, walking away from Tony Abbott’s promise to cut the Medicare rebate for short consultations.
The back down was humiliating for Tony Abbott and demonstrates once again that this is a government in chaos.
Taking the rebate cut off the table was a victory for Doctors, patients and common sense but don’t think for a second that the fight to save Medicare from Tony Abbott is finished.
In fact it is far from over.
Under Tony Abbott’s GP Tax Mark II, the Government still wants to slash your $5 dollar Medicare rebate and impose a $5 tax for all GP visits. This will leave all patients across the nation worse off, particularly in the bush.
Tony Abbott basically wants Doctors in regional and rural areas to become his tax collector as the Government forces GPs to impose a tax that Parliament has rejected and which many patients can’t afford.
As the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s President, Dr Dennis Pashen, pointed out recently - many rural medical practices that represent struggling communities can’t simply ask their patients to pay this extra GP Tax. Doctors face an invidious choice – continue to service your patients without collecting Tony’s tax but watch your already marginal practice face closure.
The 2015 version of the GP Tax, just like last year’s version, is designed to reduce the number of visits we make to the GP. If you think that is a good idea then increasing the cost of GP care seems to make good sense. The problem is that it isn’t a good idea.
For the majority of health issues it costs much less to have them dealt with by a GP - a fraction of what it would cost compared to a hospital. We know that people in rural areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital for problems that could have been prevented through other services such as their local GP. So it is particularly concerning that the GP Tax Mark II will lead to already overcrowded hospitals being flooded with more and more desperate patients.
Tony Abbott’s assault on Medicare shows a breathtaking disregard for the realities of regional and rural healthcare. Unlike the Abbott Government, Labor understands the importance of health and hospital services in rural and regional Australia. We will oppose this year’s model of the GP Tax with the same vigour as we did last year.