North Coast GPs say local patients will be the losers if the the current ‘freeze’ on the rebate for Medicare consultations is not ended by whichever political party wins government this weekend.
They say the freeze will force general practitioners to either abandon bulk billing or walk away from their practices.
The Northern Rivers General Practice Network (NRGPN) says it decided to call for an end to the freeze during the federal election campaign because of its ongoing concern ‘about patients who rely on GPs as their first port of call when facing concerns about their health’.
NRGPN chairman Dr David Guest said that ‘for the sake of North Coast residents, many of whom are on low incomes, the current “freeze” on the rebate for Medicare consultation items should be brought to an end by whichever parties win government this weekend’.
‘All the major parties have responsibility here… Labor and the Greens have said they support the reversal of the Medicare freeze, while the Coalition does not,’ Dr Guest said.
‘The Medicare freeze was introduced by the Labor government in 2012, then embraced by the Coalition government under Tony Abbott, and extended in the May 2016 Budget to 2020,’ he said.
‘At present, there is no guarantee it will not extend beyond that time.
‘If that happens, the effect will be to reduce GP incomes at a time when costs continue to increase over time. This is most marked where doctors bulk bill a large proportion of their patients.
‘The effect of the freeze will force general practitioners to either abandon bulk billing or walk away from their practices. In either case, local patients will be the losers.’
Dr Guest said the NRGPN believed that primary health care ‘needs a new approach to financing that is both fair and efficient’.
‘It supports the initiatives in the May budget to explore better ways to care for those patients in our community with chronic and complex medical problems,’ he said.
‘However, ad hoc decisions made by Treasury about health financing are unfair on the most vulnerable members of our community.’
The Northern Rivers General Practice Network has around 200 members, including active and retired doctors and doctors in training.
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Still haven't made your mind up who to vote for yet? Well, crawl out from whatever rock you've been hiding under and pay some fricking attention. It's really quite simple. Just match your ideology with one of these political parties and away you go.