Labors Spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones today accused National and Liberal Party MPs of punishing regional communities. Jones revealed new figures that show patients in regional Australia will be hardest hit by the Abbott Governments $1.2 billion increase to medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Data obtained from the Federal Department of Health shows that the top 12 electorates to pay the highest out-of-pocket costs after the Coalitions $1.2 billion increase to medicines will be in rural and regional Australia.
Coalition MPs are asking patients in these rural and regional areas to fork out an additional $112 million over the next four years, said Stephen Jones.
Has the National Party gone in to hiding?
Tragically, the regions that need the most support are the ones getting the least.
We know that Australians in rural and regional areas have poorer access to doctors, poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancy.
We also know they are more likely to have higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, more likely to develop skin cancer, heart disease, arthritis and be overweight or obese.
The Abbott Governments billion dollar hike to costs of prescriptions are only going to make this worse, said Jones.
Before the election National MPs were running from town to town telling concerned regional voters that they would have:
A dedicated minister for regional health to specifically oversee regional healthcare and the needs of regional patients.
[Our Plan for Regional Australia, page 43]
In their policy document,Our Plan for Regional Australia, the Nats even indicated they wanted to lower the PBS safety net, stating:
In government we will examine the implications of changing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net threshold for single persons to half that applying to couples and families.
[Our Plan for Regional Australia, page 51]
Just over a year into Government and we see this was nothing more than another hollow promise, said Jones.
Far from lowering the burden of costs associated with healthcare in rural and regional Australia, the National Party Members are running scared.
Its becoming increasingly clear National members have no say in policy development and no influence on policies that are hitting rural and regional Australians much harder than those in the cities.
The top twelve electorates facing the biggest bills for the increases in prescription costs are: 1. Gippsland (Vic), 2. Hinkler (Qld), 3. Murray (Vic), 4. Gilmore (NSW), 5. Cowper (NSW), 6. Flinders (Vic), 7. McMillan (Vic), 8. Throsby (NSW), 9. Shortland (NSW), 10. Lyne (NSW), 11. Page (NSW) and 12. Mallee (NSW).
Add to this the cost of the Governments ill-conceived GP Tax and its a double whammy for regional patients. The out-of-pocket cost to patients in the top 12 electorates will exceed $413 million in just the next four years alone, said Jones.
They get whacked when they go to see a doctor and then again when they need to fill their prescriptions. This does not even take into account the extra fees charged for basic services like x-rays, scans or blood tests.
No wonder the Governments own backbenchers are calling it a dangerous policy.
The country does not save money when people dont see their doctor because they cant afford it. Instead of preventing or curing a sickness, it gets worse and people end up in hospital, which is the most expensive part of the health system.
Im calling on the National Party Members to stand up for their electorates and tell Tony Abbott to drop these ill-conceived health taxes.
The Australian Medical Association and the majority of Senators, Premiers and Chief Ministers have all said the health taxes are unsustainable, and even Members of the Prime Ministers own Government are telling him to drop it.
The National Party Members must join the call. Rural and regional patients cannot afford to pay almost for this Prime Ministers broken promises.