The Prime Minister today exposed his complete ignorance about the damage his Budget is doing to patients by repeatedly, and falsely insisting that the GP Tax was the only new charge for patients.
Minister Dutton should immediately hand Mr Abbott a copy of his own Budget papers, which clearly spell out the full extent of the Budget, showing that the pain goes way beyond the doctor’s surgery.
In addition to the GP Tax the Budget contains:
– A 10 – 15% cut in the rebate for diagnostic imaging services due to the scrapping of the bulk billing incentive
– The scrapping of the Greatest Permissible Gap, which subsidised high cost services like PET and CAT scans
The bulk billing incentive Mr Abbott is scrapping in this Budget significantly exceeds the meagre low gap incentive he is offering.
The net effect of all these measures will force general patients who were previously bulk billed to fork out thousands of dollars upfront to pay for MRI, X-Rays, CAT scans and mammograms.
According to the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association (ADIA), the combined impact of these Budget changes will force many patients to pay $90 upfront for every x-ray, $380 for every CAT scan, up to $160 for every mammogram and $190 for every ultrasound. For those unfortunate enough to need a PET scan the upfront cost could be as high as $1,000.
Even after receiving their Medicare rebate, patients could be left with out of pocket cost of up to $160 for every scan, considerably more than the $7 Mr Abbott mentioned in Parliament.
The ADIA estimates the total up front cost of the scans, consultations and pathology required for a patient with liver cancer will be a minimum $1263, for thyroid cancer $1326 and for a patient with liver metastasis $2,207.
New costs for patients – upfront and out of pocket:
Source: Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association (source attached)
For many patients, especially those on extensive courses of treatment, those sorts of costs will be simply unaffordable. They’ll either have to skip crucial treatments or take out a loan to pay for essential life-saving treatment.
Those who do miss important scans are likely to get sicker, require even more extensive treatment, and end up costing the health system much, much more.
As the AMA warns, for a woman who misses a scan because they can’t afford it, only to have the lump on her breast later diagnosed as malignant “that could be the difference between life and death”.
This is a disgrace. While GPs are the frontline when it comes to heath care, pathology and diagnostic imaging is the backline.
The GP Tax is a disaster for health, and a disaster for the Budget.