Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones have today warned that local patients are set to be hit with a GP Tax even bigger than the original proposal thanks to Tony Abbott’s four year freeze on Medicare rebates.
The rebate freeze is just the latest version of the GP Tax and is further evidence of the Government’s chaotic handling of health policy. We have seen the Government attempt to slug patients with a $7 fee, a $5 fee a $20 fee and now an $8.43 fee through the back door.
Research from the University of Sydney published in the highly respected Medical Journal of Australia found that it could lead to even higher charges than the original GP Tax.
Even though the rebate reduction has been retracted, the freeze will have greater impact with time — nearly double the amount of the rebate reduction by 2017–18. For economic reasons, the freeze may still force GPs who currently bulk bill to charge co-payments.
“The Cost of Freezing General Practice”, Medical Journal of Australia
The study found that by 2017/18, the shortfall will leave GPs $8.43 worse off, forcing many doctors to charge patients who are currently bulk billed, and increase out of pocket payments for other patients.
Sharon Bird said that the rebate freeze would impose an up-front charge between patients and their GP in the region, destroying Medicare’s universal health care.
“The Abbott Government is committed to forcing down bulk billing by making more patients pay to see a doctor.
“We have heard the Health Minister, Susan Ley, say that the rebate freeze is designed to achieve what the original GP Tax was meant to do – drive up costs for patients.”
Stephen Jones said that the GP Tax by stealth would have a particularly profound impact on those who could least afford it.
“The researchers from the University of Sydney found that the freeze will have a ‘greater impact on practices that serve socio-economically disadvantaged populations’.
“What it means in practice is that many people with recurring problems such as chronic disease will avoid seeing their local Doctor, worsening existing conditions and lead to overcrowding in our hospital waiting rooms.
“The rebate freeze confirms Tony Abbott’s promise that the GP Tax is dead is as believable as his promises before the election of no new taxes and no cuts to health. He can’t be trusted.”