Poll Finds Australian Oppose Medicare Co-payment Plan

By Petrina Smith
Monday, 12 May, 2014


[caption id="attachment_7733" align="alignright" width="150"]Adam Stankevicius Adam Stankevicius[/caption]

Most Australians oppose paying to see a doctor and believe a Medicare co-payment will simply mean more people going to emergency departments, new research commissioned by the Consumers Health Forum has found.


The research released yesterday (Sunday May 11th) shows the public are strongly opposed to the idea of paying fees to see a doctor - currently 80% of all doctors' fees across the nation are bulk billed.
The Essential Research organisation polled a large sample size of over 1,000 consumers. The results show:

  • 72% of people polled say a $6 co-payment will mean more people will go to emergency departments rather than pay a doctor's fee.

  • 69% said a $6 fee will discourage people from seeing GPs.

  • 66% of people say they are paying more on health costs than they were just 5 years ... a third of the poll said they were paying "much more".

  • 58% said clearly they would not pay more to have GP visits covered by private health insurance.

  • 72% of insured people say their gap and other costs are higher than 5 years ago.

  • The majority (57%) of people believe there is a big gap in the quality of care between those who have private health insurance and those who don't. 


The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has previously highlighted that Australia already has amongst the highest level of out-of-pocket health costs in the world.  Australians personally pay for an average 17% of total health costs.
The latest poll results reflect what CHF’s own survey of 583 engaged consumers has found.
It shows:

  • Half of these consumers have annual out of pocket costs in excess of $1,000, and consumers who are high users of health care experience even greater costs.

  • Consumers who have private health insurance are likely to face much higher out of pocket costs than those who do not.

  • Out of pocket costs result in a significant percentage of consumers delaying seeking medical assistance for fear of being unable to shoulder the burden of payment.


Adam Stankevicius - the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia - says as CHF’s survey found, co-payments will hit chronically ill and people on low incomes the hardest.  He says a co-payment scheme will not generate cost savings for the health system but will – in fact – add to the costs.
CHF says the findings clearly underline the massive concern in the community about how a two tier health system has developed in Australia as more than half of those polled say there is a big gap in the quality of care between those with insurance and those without.
Adam Stankevicius said, “If people have to pay to see a doctor, a lot of things are going to change.  If they are paying $6, then many people who are used to seeing a GP at no cost are going to put off a visit.  Any introduction of a co-payment will be a clear barrier to primary health care.”
“It’s our considered view that a GP co-payment will result in more people going straight to hospital emergency departments.  It’s feared departments could get flooded.  This is why the Commission of Audit has proposed that State Governments introduce a charge on low urgency patients attending emergency departments.”
Adam Stankevicius says the Consumers Health Forum totally opposes Medicare co-payments.
He added, “We believe it would undermine the principle of Medicare in providing universal access to health care.  Experiences tell us that a significant number of patients are likely to put off going to the doctor because of cost.”
“This would come at a time when we need to be encouraging people to take a more proactive approach to their health, given the rise in chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity etc…all of which the GP can play a significant role in reducing through advice to patients. As it is GPs are seen as cost effective, particularly when compared to the much higher cost of hospital care.”
“Australia is facing increasing health costs but there are other ways we can reduce these, by reducing avoidable hospital admissions, for instance.  Australia’s health spending is middle-level compared to other countries and we have one of the best health outcomes in terms of access to services and longevity.”
Adam Stankevicius added, “The CHF is deeply concerned that the Government is proposing to introduce a co-payment for GPs.  We believe it would undermine the principle of Medicare in providing universal access to health care."
"Experiences tell us that a significant number of patients are likely to put off going to the doctor because of cost.  This would come at a time when we need to be encouraging people to take a more proactive approach to their health, given the rise in chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity etc … all of which the GP can play a significant role in reducing through advice to patients. As it is GPs are seen as cost effective, particularly when compared to the much higher cost of hospital care.”
For the CHF report of its own consumer survey, see http://tinyurl.com/le9z9tu
 
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