It’s no wonder the Abbott Government’s health budget strategy is in such disarray, with the Minister for Rural and Regional Health Senator Fiona Nash refusing to acknowledge the glaring gaps between health services in rural and regional areas compared to major cities.
In Senate Question Time yesterday Minister Nash claimed:
“… a large proportion of out-of-pocket costs in Australia result from patient choice in services that are not funded by the government. Indeed… there is not a significant difference in bulk-billing rates or average out-of-pocket costs between people in major cities and those in rural and regional areas.”
[Sen. Fiona Nash, Senate Question Time, August 25, 2014]
Minister Nash should know her claims are incorrect. The Senate Inquiry into Out of Pocket Expenses in Australian Healthcare last week confirmed:
“The cost of travelling to access healthcare is particularly significant for regional and remote communities.”
“GP out-of-pocket health care costs for people in regional areas are 10 to 20 per cent higher in absolute terms than in the major cities, but lower in very remote areas due to the lesser rate at which people have access to a GP.”
“So rather than the Minister’s claim that there is no significant disparity in the cost and access to healthcare for rural and regional patients, they are in fact paying 14 per cent more in out-of-pocket costs than the national average”, said Jones.
“It is not a choice for patients in rural and remote areas to travel often hundreds of kilometres to access quality healthcare.
“Minister Nash recognised this fact when she was in opposition, conceding there were wide and worrying gaps in health between the city and the bush.
“My question to the Minister is, what has changed?
“Senator Nash’s cluelessness on regional health policy doesn’t stop there. If the Minister was across her porftolio, she would be dead against Tony Abbott’s GP Tax, which will do huge damage to regional communities.
“Fiona Nash needs to stop parroting the Liberal Party line and start doing her job – standing up for regional communities. It’s disgraceful that the Nationals are staying silent on this unfair GP Tax.”