Consumer and Health Groups Against AMA's Medical Co-payment Proposal

By Petrina Smith
Friday, 22 August, 2014

Community and health consumer groups have rejected the Australian Medical Association’s proposal for mandatory medical co-payments as representing a first step towards the breakdown of universal access under Medicare.
“A co-payment would erect a barrier to primary health care for many thousands of families and individuals who would not qualify for concessions.  The Federal Government, and now the AMA, are proposing a new impost on health consumers before investigating other ways to make health care in Australia more cost effective,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Adam Stankevicius said.
“At a time when 700,000 people are hospitalised a year for conditions that could have been avoided through better primary care interventions, the AMA plan would place a mandatory $6.15 charge on general practice care for many people.
“The AMA plan swallows the $3.5 billion in expected budget savings and highlights the need for a stronger primary health system.  The AMA itself says that general practice is ‘a low cost and efficient part of the health system’.  Why complicate a system that has worked well for 30 years.  And where is the Government modelling to support such a dramatic change to Medicare?
Rebecca Vassarotti, Deputy CEO of Australian Council of Social Service, said:  “The release of the AMA’s proposal to Government has done nothing to ease the concerns of ACOSS that the poor and vulnerable in our community will be hard-hit by the GP co-payment plan”.
“Exemptions will always miss out on groups in the community who are at risk.  Under the AMA plan, we know that groups of people will not access the care they need because they can’t afford it.  Low income workers, people with chronic illness, and  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are all groups that will continue to face access issues under the AMA plan.
“Again, ACOSS calls on the Parliament to protect the principles that underpin Medicare – universal access to GPs for everyone in the community, regardless of how much money they have in their pocket.  Price signals in primary healthcare just don’t make sense.  We don’t want people to be making decisions about whether or not to go to the Doctor or put food on the table.  It’s bad for them, it’s bad for the economy and it’s bad for the community”.
Michael Moore, the CEO of the Public Health Association Australia, said: "If the government is really serious about red tape and less regulation and more efficiency it will drop the co-payment idea as soon as possible.  The co-payment idea was flawed from the beginning.
"The attempt by the AMA to find a compromise solution illustrated just how farcical the idea is and provides yet another reason for the government to shelve the notion and for the Senate to reject it.  Even if the government accepted the AMA proposal they would be seeking to implement yet another tax that will most likely cost more to administer than what it would raise in revenue.

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