News National PM not sold on GP exemptions

PM not sold on GP exemptions

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Tony Abbott is against the idea of exempting children from the unpopular $7 GP visit co-payment, saying sometimes you have to pay for something to appreciate what you’re getting.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) will on Thursday unveil its alternative model for the Medicare charge, which will demand vulnerable patients like pensioners and children be excluded.

The prime minister has already questioned why pensioners should be exempt from the co-payment, when they have to pay a similar charge for taxpayer-subsidised medicines.

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He has now appeared to rule out exemptions for children.

“I don’t see why the same principles that govern the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme shouldn’t govern Medicare as well,” he told Fairfax Radio.

“Sometimes you’ve got to pay something to appreciate what you’re getting.”

Mr Abbott’s comments are a blow to the AMA, which presented its proposal to the government three weeks ago.

It also wants the government to scrap plans to cut the Medicare rebate by $5 for bulk billed patients, which would leave doctors out of pocket if they don’t charge the co-payment.

AMA president Brian Owler said he wouldn’t horsetrade with the government on the co-payment plan.

“I think there’s a misconception that this was going to be a to-and-fro debate and that the AMA is in there wheeling and dealing and trading things,” he told ABC radio.

“We have a number of policy positions, and one of those is not removing money from primary care and general practice.”

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Health Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Getty Images

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has said the coalition is seriously considering the AMA proposal, and is having it costed by his department.

The coalition is struggling to garner Senate support for the co-payment, with Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers opposed to the amount and scope of the charge.

Welfare and health groups urged senators to reject any deal struck between the AMA and government, complaining that they had been frozen out of negotiations.

“It would hit poor and chronically ill people hardest and exemptions would not go far enough,” Australian Council of Social Service boss Cassandra Goldie said.

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