The Prime Minister has pounced on Labor’s $12 billion election promise to unwind the controversial freeze on Medicare rebates, arguing it is an unfunded commitment.
Labor’s plan announced today would cost $2.4 billion over the next four years and apply to all services provided by GPs, allied health and other medical specialists — but not pathology and diagnostic imaging.
The Opposition is predicting the decision will cost an extra $12 billion over the next decade, but those projections go well beyond the four-year budget forecasting period.
Shadow health spokeswoman Catherine King said the policy would be paid for through savings.
“We’ve fully funded our proposal from existing revenue measures including not proceeding with the tax cuts for multinational companies,” she said.
But Mr Turnbull maintains Labor has not provided enough detail to show how individual savings measures will fill the gap.
“With Labor it’s the same old Labor, unfunded promises,” he said.
“Now over $67 billion of unfunded promises over the next four years.”
In 2013, the then-Labor government introduced an eight-month cap on the amount of money it paid doctors who provided services under Medicare.
The current Coalition Government froze the rebate again in 2014.
That decision enraged GPs, who said they were being starved of funds they needed to provide quality care.
Bulk billing rates continue to grow despite freeze
In this month’s budget Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the freeze on indexation for Medicare rebates would continue until the 2019-20 financial year.
That is estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.
But despite the freeze on the rebate, bulk billing rates have continued to grow and are at a high of 84 per cent.
Usually the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate is indexed and increases a small amount each year.
Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said doctors were worried a continuation of the freeze would discourage doctors from bulk billing.
“That really angered many people and again it’s reignited anger amongst, particularly, general practitioners,” Professor Owler said.
“The reality is that lifting the freeze is a very big deal [not just] for general practice, but for all doctors and particularly their patients.”