01.Budget 2014: $7 GP co-payment plan criticised
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has criticised the Abbott government for forcing GPs to either charge vulnerable patients a co-payment or absorb the cost in their take-home pay.
The government has announced a raft of cuts to health care and health insurance in the 2014 Budget. Under the co-payment plan, all Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) rebates for GPs will be reduced by $5 – including for surgery consultations, after-hours consultations, home visits and visits to aged-care homes. While GPs will have the choice to absorb the reduced rebate, they would take a cut to their income if they decide not charge patients the $7 co-payment.
The co-payment is proposed to come into effect on 1 July 2015 but will face difficulty in securing Senate approval, with Labor, the Greens and Palmer United Party all opposing the plan.
RACGP president Dr Liz Marles said it is not feasible for general practitioners to collect money from patients in aged-care facilities. “Many of these patients are cognitively impaired or are in a situation where their physical and/or mental state is potentially compromised.”
According to The Guardian, the Abbott government has faced further criticism for not assessing the affect the co-payment plan would have on emergency departments. In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, health officials confirmed the Department of Health had not prepared modelling on the potential consequences of the government's planned healthcare changes on emergency departments.
Read more about the 2014 Budget's cuts to health care.