GP co-payment 2.0: a triple whammy for patients - Stephen Duckett and Peter Breadon for The Conversation

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The big losers will be ordinary patients. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

In the May budget, the Commonwealth government proposed a A$7 co-payment for GP services and tests done outside a hospital. After seven months of fierce criticism, the government n the May budget, the Commonwealth government proposed a A$7 co-payment for GP services and tests done outside a hospital. After seven months of fierce criticism, the government abandoned those plans on Tuesday. The budget proposals have been replaced by three separate initiatives which will reduce Medicare direct spending by roughly the same amount as the budget initiative.
 
As with the $7 co-payment proposal, these savings will initially be directed into the Medical Research Future Fund.
The first change has grabbed all the headlines. It is to reduce by $5 the rebate for general practice visits for most people. This excludes pensioners, concession card holders and people under 16. The government is encouraging GPs to recoup the $5 rebate cut from patients.
 
The second change is to freeze the indexation of rebates for all medical practitioners. As the rebate drifts further away from the cost that GPs incur in running their practice, GPs are likely to increase their charges to cover their costs.
 
As a result, all patients (including pensioners and health care card holders) are likely to face increased out-of-pocket costs. The problem is likely to be worst in areas where access to care is lowest, where patients are already more likely to pay out of pocket costs.
 
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