Abbott Government deceit about the full impact of its GP Tax have been exposed at Senate Estimates with Health Department officials confirming the tax will cost much, much more than $5 for hundreds of thousands of patients.
Officials admitted 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 means hundreds of thousands of patients who currently pay no up-front fee will now have to find $40 or $50 every time they visit a GP.
Many of these patients are low income earners who just miss out on health concession cards, or patients with chronic conditions who need to make frequent visits to the GP.
The minister dismisses this as a modest price or “value signal”. Yet her own officials now confirm the government knows that many doctors will charge significant numbers of patients much more than $5.
Worse, without legislative changes, even those patients only charged the new $5 tax will also have to pay the entire cost of the consultation up front.
Existing legislation requires patients who are not bulk-billed to be levied the entire fee up front and claim back the Medicare rebate.
A GP Tax introduced via the back door through regulation only would thus require millions of patients who are currently bulk-billed, to pay the entire cost up front every time they see a GP.
These revelations expose the dishonesty of the Health Minister’s promise of “consultations” with health groups while simultaneously insisting that any the GP Tax is not negotiable.
In a line that could have been taken direct from Alice in Wonderland, the Assistant Minister for Health explained this as “government policy remains the $5 co-pay, but we’ve paused to consult”.
How is a policy paused if it has not yet started, but which the government insists will go ahead regardless of consultations where every single group it meets declares it should be dropped?
These farcical scenes just highlight the complete chaos and confusion of government health policy as its struggles to concoct a third version of its GP Tax.
It confirms the GP Tax will be far more complicated than the government has admitted, and cost hundreds of thousands of patients well in excess of $5.