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RACGP cautiously welcomes Labor’s promise to fully end Medicare freeze


Doug Hendrie


25/03/2019 2:17:06 PM

But President Dr Harry Nespolon has called on major parties to bring general consultation items to where they would have been without lost indexation.

Medicare card
Labor’s $213 million commitment would reverse the freeze on items like family counselling, urgent after-hours care, mental health care, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has vowed his party would end the freeze on indexation for 100 general practice Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items within 50 days of the coming election, if it wins government.
 
The move is part of an effort to reduce patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, which have been rising as a result of the freeze.
 
The Coalition Government began lifting the freeze in its 2017 budget.
 
‘Ten years ago, Australians paid an average out-of-pocket fee of $21 to see a GP. If that cost had increased in line with inflation, it would be around $26 today. Instead, it’s up to $36.47,’ Mr Shorten said.
 
Labor’s $213 million commitment would reverse the freeze on items like family counselling, urgent after-hours care, mental health care, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks.
 
The commitment comes after Dr Nespolon last month publicly called on Labor to fix the situation, saying, ‘if Labor is serious about supporting Medicare, undo the damage of the rebate freeze’.
 
Dr Nespolon has called Labor’s promise a positive start, but stressed that a much greater investment in general practice is required to undo the damage of the Medicare freeze.
 
‘Today’s announcement by Federal Opposition Leader Shorten is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it does not go far enough,’ he said.
 
‘Australian GPs and their patients need the government elected at this year’s Federal Election to commit to bringing general consultation items to where they would be today, had it not been for the lost indexation caused by the Medicare rebate freeze.’
 
Dr Nespolon described moves to end the freeze once and for all as a sign Australia’s political leaders are beginning to understand the vital role of specialist GPs in Australia’s healthcare system.
 
Labor introduced the rebate freeze as a temporary measure in 2013, but the Coalition extended the measure when they took office that same year. The freeze is currently scheduled to end on 1 July.

Shorten-and-Zena-Article.jpg
Labor leader Bill Shorten discusses the freeze with RACGP Chief Executive Officer Dr Zena Burgess (left). 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt rejected Labor’s promise, dubbing it a ‘medi-fraud’.
 
‘Labor started the freeze and we ended it. Labor stopped listing medicines, whereas we have guaranteed the listing of medicines,’ he said. 
 
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Tony Bartone also gave qualified support to Labor’s commitment. 
 
‘At the end of the day, this freeze had to end, and it had to end sooner than has been announced,’ he said in a Sky News interview. ‘It should never been in place in the first place.
 
‘[The freeze has] put unnecessary pressures on both patients, in terms of their out-of-pocket costs when seeing a doctor, and on the GPs who are bulk billing their patients. It should never have been there, and so of course we welcome it.
 
‘But, as I say, this has been a cost on both patients and doctors.’



election funding medicare rebate freeze


newsGP weekly poll What are appropriate public health measures should COVID cases spike and the healthcare system be placed under further pressure?
 
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Dr Peter J Strickland   26/03/2019 2:21:28 PM

I don't think the RACGP and the AMA realise what they are giving the "thumbs-up " to here. Do NOT believe the Labor Party on this matter at all; they have NOT announced what the new consultation fees would be under their auspices in government. The standard consultation fee (item 23) in 2019 should be $50 minimum now. It is no good just increasing fees for family counselling, aboriginal health items and mental health issues alone as I read in this RACGP article --they are a minuscule part of GP and patient care Medicare fees claims. What SHOULD happen here in Australia is that everyone contributes something to their health, and esp. in hospitals (pay for meals and PBS medications as an example), and not have the middle class paying for everything under the other financial pressures they face today. Pensioners CAN afford to pay towards their care - many now go on expensive holidays etc. at the expense of no substantial health contribution in GP fees and hospital care.


jo   28/03/2019 1:06:19 PM

Fully agree with Dr Peter. The minimum consultation fee should be 50$ for a standard consult. The amount of study and effort and time it is required to become a doctor and a plumber would charge you more then that. It is very deflating to say the least.


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