Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander Health Leaders Call for Co-payment to be Scrapped

By Petrina Smith
Wednesday, 21 May, 2014

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Leaders from across Australia say the co-payment is against the principles of health equity outlined in the Statement of Intent to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.
Representative organisations met in Canberra yesterday for crisis talks regarding the implications of the Commonwealth Budget.
“The Aboriginal community sector will not agree to turn our backs on the most disadvantaged and disempowered,” said Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.
“The suggested co-payments run counter to the findings of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Australia’s health policies and funding should reflect those findings. 
“Introducing co-payments will not serve to close the gap in health outcomes; it will only widen the gap between our people and the rest of the community,’ said Ms Tongs.
We reject the introduction of co-payments because they will increase inequality.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already experience considerable health disadvantage

  • for every dollar spent on non-Indigenous Australians now, only 60 cents is spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

  • international evidence confirms the most efficient way to contain health care costs is a robust universal primary health care system

  • the sustainability of Australia’s robust not for profit health sector, which currently supports the most vulnerable in our community, is threatened by this move.

“We are calling for an immediate scrapping of the MBS and PBS co-payments scheme. “The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health sector will not agree to turn our backs on the needy, disadvantaged and desperate." Ms Tongs said.
In response, The Minister for Health Peter Dutton said it is important to remember that in addition to funding support under Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, many services receive funding and support through other Indigenous health programs. 
“The Government will be spending almost one billion dollars on specific Indigenous health programs, Medicare and PBS items. This includes $520 million in grant funding for Indigenous health organisations in 2014-15.” Mr Dutton said. “In addition to this amount state and territory governments provide considerable funding for Indigenous health services.”
“Given the amount of money being administered by Indigenous health services I am keen to get a better understanding of the concerns being raised and of how the funding is being translated into front-line support.”
“It is important to be clear as to why organisations believe they would not be able to provide services for those most in need. I will be keen to see the analysis of where the funding is being spent” Mr Dutton said.
"Australians need to know that we have ensured those in need and the vulnerable will be protected. If that patient is a concession card holder or a child under 16, then they will only be expected to pay the $7 contribution a maximum of 10 times in a calendar year (including out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services). GPs remain able to set their own fees and will have discretion as to whether they charge the $7 patient contribution.
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