News National GP fee ‘deterring patients’

GP fee ‘deterring patients’

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Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton has said anecdotally patients are already cancelling doctors appointments in response to the proposed GP co-payment. 

The Abbott Government introduced the controversial measure in this month’s federal budget which would see all patients charged a minimum of $7 for a GP visit, sparking fears low income earners would not be able to afford visits.

Dr Hambleton told SkyNews patients who believed the co-payment was already in effect were already staying away from doctor’s appointments.

“Just hearing about it in the budget has been sufficient for some patients not to attend,” he said.

“Some of those practices have had to resort to letting people know it doesn’t start till July next year.”

He said he did not know who patients were or why they were not coming, but that it was evidence the policy would change behaviour.

“If we have people not going to the GP, getting sicker and not going to the GP that’s not a good thing … it will end up costing more money not less.”

Australian doctors have begun protesting the co-payment plan pointing out that the fee will be difficult to collect and may discourage them from bulk billing.

Called CoPayNoWay, the GP-led campaign is being mounted on a Twitter, a website dedicated to co-payment stories and the ABC reports that signs are being placed in waiting rooms.

Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite confirmed on SkyNews people in his electorate were already cancelling doctors visit because they could not afford the co-payment.

Federal treasurer Joe Hockey copped criticism on ABC’s Q&A for the proposal, admitting it was a new tax, despite pre-election promises that the party would not raise or introduce taxes.

“It’s a payment. You can call it a tax,” he said. “It comes out of a pocket. It comes out of someone’s pocket. A taxpayer’s pocket. You want to call it a tax, you can call it anything you want, you can call it a rabbit.”

– with AAP