01.Older Australians most vulnerable to co-payment pain
Australians aged over 65 will be hardest hit by the federal government’s plan to introduce a $7 Medicare co-payment and increase co-payments for medicines on the PBS, new research from the University of Sydney has found.
The study found a self-funded retired couple over 65 without Commonwealth concessions could expect to pay an average of $244 more a year ($189 for GP visits and $55 for medications), while a couple over the age of 65 with a concession card could expect to pay an average $199 more each year ($140 for GP visits and $59 for medications).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the reason older Australians will be hit harder is that they need to see the doctor more often. The research found the number of GP consultations a patient had each year significantly increased with age. Children on average visit the GP 4.5 times a year, while those over 65 visit 10.5 times.
Dr Clare Bayram, co-author of the report, said the introduction of co-payments won’t be shared equally. "It will particularly affect people who need to use more medical and related services, such as older people and those with chronic health conditions,” she said.
The increased co-payments would also cost families. A family with two kids aged below 16 and parents aged between 25 and 44 would pay on average an extra $184 more each year.
The increased costs as a result of the proposed co-payment scheme would likely deter the most vulnerable people in the community from seeking medical care, Dr Bayram said.
In addition to the proposed Medicare co-payments, co-payments for PBS medications will also increase under the government's plan. General patients will pay an additional $5 and concessional patients an extra 80c for medicines listed on the PBS under the proposal. If the proposal is passed by January next year, general patients will be paying $42.70 and concession card holders $6.90 for medicines listed on the PBS, taking into account inflation estimates.
The Australian Medical Association also criticised the Medicare co-payments, saying GPs will be encouraged to spend less time with patients.
Find out about all the proposed cuts to health in the Abbott government's 2014 Budget.