Just days after it was introduced Tony Abbott’s GP Tax is already wreaking havoc on patients, with doctors forced to raise fees, cut bulk billing, and in at least one case, shut their practice.
My office has received a number of emails about practices informing patients they can no longer afford to bulk bill, hitting patients, many of them concession card holders or people with chronic conditions, with fees of up to $20 or 430.
Tasmanian GP Emil Djakic, has told Australian Medicine his practice in Ulverstone and Penguin has been forced to introduced a $30 charge for the hundreds of patients who had previously been bulk billed.
Dr Djakic has put lie to claims by the minister that GPs would continue to look after less well-off patients, declaring the rebate freeze has now made this unaffordable and all patients will now be charged a $30 fee for their first visit of the financial year.
We have now reached an inflexion point, triggered by the rebate freeze, where it is increasingly unaffordable.
In areas where it is not possible to levy fees, practices have been forced to take more drastic action, with Dr Adrian Jones’ practice in Redfern in inner-city Sydney forced to close its doors after 34 years.
Dr Jones has told Australian Doctor the four year freeze on rebates for general practice MBS items proved the final straw.
I can’t keep putting up fees for private patients to support the concessional ones … There’s just too few for too many.
I feel that the government’s position is putting pressure on these sort of clinics, and the days of the genuine family practice are dying.
There have been two or three small practices in the area, and all have closed up in the last few months, putting more patient pressure on us here.
We couldn’t get any busier, and yet we still couldn’t survive.
The fee hikes, cuts to bulk billing and closure of long-established practices confirms the four year freeze is just the latest version of the GP Tax.
Just like the original GP Tax, the rebate freeze imposes an up-front charge between patients and their GP, destroying Medicare’s universal health care, precisely as the Abbott Government intended.
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.
Health Minister Sussan Ley, 3AW, 3 March 2015
At the same time, public hospitals are reporting near record numbers of patients, as people increasingly seek to dodge the Abbott Government’s new out-of-pocket GP costs payments by swamping Emergency Departments.
The rebate freeze confirms 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.
The Abbott Government remains committed to the GP Tax and Medicare will never be safe while Tony Abbott remains in power.