Next Tuesday’s Budget must kill off the GP Tax once and for all by abandoning the four year freeze on Medicare rebates for GPs.
Despite repeated claims by the Abbott Government that the GP Tax is dead, research published in the highly respected Medical Journal of Australia finds the four year rebate freeze could lead to even higher charges than the original GP Tax.
Even though the rebate reduction has been retracted, the freeze will have greater impact with time — nearly double the amount of the rebate reduction by 2017–18. For economic reasons, the freeze may still force GPs who currently bulk bill to charge copayments.
“The Cost of Freezing General Practice” Medical Journal of Australia
The study found that by 2017/18, the shortfall will leave GPs $8.43 worse off. As the authors noted in an opinion piece for The Conversation.
That’s a bigger shortfall than the now-abandoned A$5 rebate cut – and is likely to prompt many GPs to start charging a co-payment.
“High cost of GP rebate freeze may see co-payments rise from the dead”
The rebate freeze is just the latest version of the GP Tax which has seen the government attempt to slug patients with a $7 fee, a $5 fee a $20 fee and now an $8.43 fee through the back door.
It confirms that as long as the government continues with the rebate freeze Tony Abbott’s promise that the GP Tax is dead is as believable as his promises before the election of no new taxes and no cuts to health.
As Health Minister Sussan Ley has made clear, she is committed to forcing down bulk billing by making more patients pay to see a doctor.
There are a lot of people who attend a doctor, who pay nothing who can afford to pay a bit more and that’s where we have to land in this discussion with the medical profession.
Sussan Ley, 3AW, 3 March 2015
The rebate freeze would impose an up-front charge between patients and their GP, destroying Medicare’s fundamental principle of universal access to health care based on need, not on how much you can pay.
All that’s changed is the language.
“Co-payment”, “price signal”, “value signal” or “rebate freeze”, it doesn’t matter what the government calls it, the end result is still the same – it’s still a GP Tax, it’s still an attack on Medicare, and patients are still being hit for more.