AMA co-payment plan knifes Medicare principle of access for all

21 August 2014

Australia’s leading community and health consumer groups have rejected the Australian Medical Association’s proposal for mandatory medical co-payments as representing a first step towards the breakdown of universal access under Medicare.

“A co-payment would erect a barrier to primary health care for many thousands of families and individuals who would not qualify for concessions. The Government, and now the AMA, are proposing a new impost on health consumers before investigating other ways to make health care in Australia more cost effective,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Adam Stankevicius said.

“At a time when 700,000 people are hospitalised a year for conditions that could have been avoided through better primary care, the AMA plan would place a mandatory $6.15 charge on general practice care for many people.”

“The AMA plan swallows the $3.5 billion in expected budget savings and highlights the need for a stronger primary health system. The AMA itself says that general practice is ‘a low cost and efficient part of the health system’. Why complicate a system that has worked well for 30 years. And where is the Government modelling to support such a dramatic change to Medicare?”

Rebecca Vassarotti, Deputy CEO of Australian Council of Social Services, said:

“The release of the AMA’s proposal to Government has done nothing to ease the concerns of ACOSS that the poor and vulnerable in our community will be hard-hit by the GP co-payment plan. Exemptions will always miss out on groups in the community who are at risk.”

“Under the AMA plan, we know that groups of people will not access the care they need because they can’t afford it. Low income workers, people with chronic illness, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are all groups that will continue to face access issues under the AMA plan.”

“Again, ACOSS calls on the Parliament to protect the principles that underpin Medicare – universal access to GPs for everyone in the community, regardless of how much money they have in their pocket. Price signals in primary healthcare just don’t make sense. We don’t want people to be making decisions about whether or not to go to the doctor or put food on the table. It’s bad for them, it’s bad for the economy and it’s bad for the community”.

Michael Moore, the CEO of the Public Health Association Australia, said:

“If the government is really serious about red tape and less regulation and more efficiency it will drop the co-payment idea as soon as possible. The co-payment idea was flawed from the beginning.”

“The attempt by the AMA to find a compromise solution illustrated just how farcical the idea is and provides yet another reason for the government to shelve the notion and for the Senate to reject it. Even if the government accepted the AMA proposal they would be seeking to implement yet another tax that will most likely cost more to administer than what it would raise in revenue.”

Media Contacts:
Rebecca Vassarotti (ACOSS) ¬ 0408 668 963
Mark Metherell (CHF) 0429 111 986
Michael Moore (PHAA) 0417 249 731


Groups reject secret co-payment talks when it’s about the well-being of ALL of us

Thursday 21, 21014

National peak community and health consumer groups today called on the Parliament to reject any deal struck by the Health Minister and the doctors union, declaring that a Medicare co-payment posed an unwarranted burden on the chronically ill and the most vulnerable in our community.

“Health and illness concerns us all and Health Minister Peter Dutton should be listening to voices in the community and groups representing all users of the health system,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.

“We know that imposing a fee to see a doctor will lead to people putting off visits than can lead to early treatment which is the best health outcome, both for them and the community because later interventions are always more costly.

“It would hit poor and chronically ill people hardest, and exemptions would not go far enough. Many people would remain exposed and people on the lowest incomes will still face cost barriers,” Dr Goldie said.

Consumers Health Forum CEO, Adam Stankevicius said: “The Government suggests the Medicare co-payment is a price signal for consumers. Price signals work for discretionary items. Health care is not discretionary!”
“It is unacceptable that consumers have been left in the dark. Why is the minister restricting his negotiations with doctors, what about the people who will have to pay?
“At a CHF meeting this week, health system experts suggested several ways Australia could make the health system more effective and save billions of dollars a year. We should be considering these options before slugging consumers with a $7 price hike.”

The CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said: “At a time when so many countries across the world are working to achieve universal health care it is appalling that the Australian government is working to undermine the very same thing.

“it is not free – it’s called Medicare. And it works pretty well. Suggestions that health spending is unsustainable are not borne out by the figures. Australia spends almost half as much as United States on healthcare (10% of our GDP) but have higher health outcomes. So why would we want to go down the US road?” Mr Moore said.

In conclusion, the three organisations made the following points:

  • When it comes to health costs, no decision about us should be taken without us.
  • A mandatory co-payment would wreck a fundamental principle of Medicare: universal access to healthcare.
  • We urge the Health Minister, Peter Dutton, to consult on the Medicare co-payment issue with groups representing all users of the health system, not just the doctors.

Media Contacts:
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) – 0419 626 155
Mark Metherell (CHF) – 0429 111 986
Michael Moore (PHAA) – 0417 249 731