Australians living in rural and regional areas will be saved from having to pay up to $20 to visit their GP, under a Shorten Labor Government.
Labor’s commitment to restore the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule from 1 January 2017 will particularly benefit Australians living in remote, rural and regional areas where bulk-billing rates are lower and many practices operate on tight margins.
Labor’s Rural and Regional Health spokesperson Stephen Jones has said that only Labor will stand up for patients in the bush.
“Ending Malcolm Turnbull’s Medicare rebate freeze is the single most significant action that can be taken to improve rural and regional general practice bulk-billing rates, patient health and the viability of small General Practices,” said Mr Jones.
“Under the Liberals, GPs in practices across Australia will have to slug their patients with an extra co-payment – a GP Tax by stealth – to make up for the freezing of Medicare rebates. Charging patients up to $20 more per visit will signal the end of accessible health care for all.
“Many GPs in the bush will be in an impossible position. Their margins are already tighter than their counterparts in metropolitan areas so they face going under if they don’t pass on the cost.
“But at the same time they can’t hit their patients with this additional GP Tax by stealth because they know that many of their patients simply can’t afford it. Low-income families living outside of our cities will likely be the worst affected.
“If patients in remote, rural and regional areas do avoid seeing their GP due to cost, the results for health in the bush will be disastrous.
“Already, late presentations to hospital emergency rooms are more common outside of our cities,” Mr Jones said.
The Australian College of Remote and Rural Medicines has said: “Many rural people will be unable to afford these additional expenses and their health will suffer as a consequence.”
This means that patients in rural and regional Australia are more likely to suffer from complications that should have been dealt with earlier in a primary care setting.
In the long-term this costs everyone more as it is far more expensive to treat someone in hospital – an overnight stay can cost more than $2,000.
Mr Jones said the Turnbull Government has abandoned rural and regional health and the Nationals have let him get away with it.
“Only Labor will stand up for Medicare and make sure that in every community across Australia it is your Medicare card, not your credit, which determines access to Australia’s world-class health care system.”