The GP Tax could see many bulk billed patients forced to shell out far more than $5, Health Department officials today admitted.
In evidence this afternoon officials admitted that the department expected around 5 per cent of services for non-concessional patients who are currently bulk-billed would be hit with fees well in excess of the $5.
This equates to around 1.5 million Medicare services.
Officials have also torpedoed government moves to slide the GP Tax in through the back door via regulation.
They have confirmed that without legislation, doctors would have to charge non-concessional patients $37 up front, before they could claim back the Medicare rebate.
Existing legislation requires patients who are not bulk-billed to be levied the entire fee up front and claims back the Medicare rebate.
Without this change, a $5 charge would require millions of patients on low incomes, or with chronic conditions who are currently bulk-billed, to pay the entire $37 up front every time they see a GP.
And this doesn’t factor in the additional cost of the four year freeze in indexation, which will ensure out of pocket and up-front fees rise every year.
Today’s hearing has also again exposed the Health Minister’s promise of “consultations” on the revamped GP Tax as a farce, with the Assistant Minister for Health declaring “government policy remains the $5 co-pay, but we’ve paused to consult”.
The minister did not explain how the government had “paused” a policy that is yet to begin but which the government remains committed to, despite every major health organisation rejecting it.
Today’s hearings have again exposed the complete chaos surrounding the Government’s GP Tax.
They confirm the Tax will be far more complicated than the Government has admitted, leading to much higher costs for many patients well in excess of $5.
They confirm the GP Tax is bad for patients, bad for health care and will be a red tape nightmare for every GP.