Australian doctors who oppose the Federal Government’s proposed co-payment for visiting a GP have begun protesting the plan, pointing out that the fee will be difficult to collect and may discourage them from bulk billing.
Western Sydney GP Dr Hani Bittar told the ABC that the co-payment poses very large problems for doctors, many of whom are not equipped to manage the system.
“Doctors are not investigators and are not social workers. I wouldn’t differentiate between my patients – I either charge them all or not charge them all,” he told the ABC.
“I think it’s up to government to tell people whether they should pay or not.”
Speaking on television earlier this week, Treasurer Joe Hockey pointed out that the so-called co-payment would not be applied without reference to a patient’s circumstances, suggesting there would be exemptions for people who suffer from chronic illness.
But doctors’ groups have been swift to announce their concerns about the plan, which range from discouraging people from seeking medical help, the impact on bulk billing and logistical problems with collecting the fees.
One of the major criticisms of the plan has been its affordability.
Answering questions on the ABC’s Q&A, Treasurer Joe Hockey was told by a number of audience members that $7 was a fee many would struggle to pay.
— RACGP (@RACGP) May 20, 2014
I believe some of the doctors I work with are now regretting voting Liberal #CoPayNoWay
— Dame Cath (@AstraKate) May 20, 2014
Patient numbers ‘slipping’
Dr Bittar told the ABC that some GPs had reported that patient were already staying away.
“The number of people who are against it is a lot more than the number of people who agree with it,” he said. “All of this will cost time and effort and money.”
— Paul Gilbert (@paul_f_gilbert) May 20, 2014