The Turnbull Government’s pre-Christmas cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging are set to have a devastating impact on women’s health and must be immediately reversed.
The decision to rip $650 million out of Medicare by slashing bulk billing for diagnostic imaging and pathology will hurt patients, by forcing cancer patients, and others with critical health conditions to either pay more or skip vital scans and tests.
Labor is deeply concerned by reports these cuts could force women to pay more for crucial preventive health checks like pap smears that are essential for detecting life threatening conditions like cervical cancer.
Every year, over 800 Australian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and around a third of those women are likely to die from the disease.
Pap tests have been a major success story of cancer prevention. In just seven years after the initiation of the National Cervical Screening Program the rates of cervical cancer, and the number of women who die from it, dropped by about a third.
Already, nearly half of Australian women in the target group are not having the recommended 2-yearly Pap test and this is certain to go backwards if bulk billing incentives are cut, and fees raised.
Given the possible consequences of not having this test, this is disastrous move for women’s health that will be not only bad for patients, but a short sighted measure that will cost the health system more in the longer term:
“This is a very poor outcome for patients, and will cost the Government more in the longer term as the diagnosis of disease is deferred as is the opportunity for prevention of disease, meaning patients will become sicker without the positive interventions provided by the correct pathology diagnosis.
Liesel Wett, CEO, Pathology Australia, 15 December 2015
The budget cuts will also have a devastating impact on women with breast cancer, with the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association warning of up front costs of between $300 and $500, and out of pocket expenses of up to $300.
The Minister must immediately abandon these disastrous short term cuts, which are simply another attempt by the Liberals to impose its GP tax on patients by cutting health funding and shifting costs on to patients.
These cuts confirm, no matter who their leader is, the Liberals only ever see health as a source of Budget cuts, and will always look to make health less affordable for those who need it most – the sick and the poor.
MYEFO confirms, yet again, only Labor can be trusted to defend Medicare and Medicare will never be safe under the Liberals, regardless of who the leader is.