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The end of universal healthcare: no more bulk billing and penalties for going to an emergency department

1 May 2014

The Commission of Audit’s recommendations will end Australia’s universal healthcare system, impeding patients’ access to GP services and will scare people into avoiding going to hospital emergency departments.

“Cost is a huge healthcare barrier and there are already a number of Australians who skip seeing their GP or don’t get prescriptions filled because they can’t afford it. These recommendations will only make the situation worse. This will end universal healthcare,” AMA Victoria Vice President and GP, Dr Tony Bartone, said.

“It is unclear if this $15 co-payment comes off the MBS rebate or out of patients’ pockets. The report suggests that this co-payment will be applied all GP services, not just bulk billed services. Many non-bulk billed patients pay $73 for GP consults and get $36.30 back from Medicare. If this $15 co-payment is for all Medicare services, then these non bulk-billed patients will only get $21.30 back,” Dr Bartone said.

“An emergency department co-payment is utter madness. Patients are not in the position to determine whether their chest pains are the sign of a heart attack. This is a penalty for those who seek emergency treatment,” AMA Victoria President and Emergency Physician, Dr Stephen Parnis, said today.

“The Federal Government needs to understand that GP-type patients are not flooding emergency department waiting rooms. EDs are full because people are sick and there are not enough inpatient beds to have them admitted,” Dr Parnis said.

“These are very dangerous recommendations and we implore the government to invest in Medicare, not bury it,” Dr Parnis said.

The Commission recommends:

  • GP co-payment: general patients would pay $15.00 per service until they reach the safety net threshold (15 visits a year). From then, they would pay $7.50 per service.
  •  GP co-payment: concession card holders would pay $5.00 per service and then $2.50 once they reach the safety net.
  •  An increase to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) co-payment, thus increasing the cost of medications.
  •  Higher-income earners to take out private health insurance for basic health services and will be ineligible for the private health insurance rebate.
  •  States will be encouraged to introduce a co-payment structure for public hospital emergency departments for non-urgent conditions.
  •  Extending the scope of practice of other health professionals, such as pharmacists and nurse practitioners.

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