Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says she will not guarantee savings from the government’s new bulk billing plan will go towards a medical research future fund.
The federal budget revealed the government’s plan to charge bulk billed patients $7 to see a doctor and put the proceeds in a new medical research fund.
But in December the policy could not pass through the Senate and was dumped in favour of a $5 payment charged at a doctor’s discretion.
In January, and within weeks of becoming health minister, Ms Ley then scrapped key parts of the new plan, stating she wanted to consult doctors.
She has now said she cannot guarantee the revenue from the proposal will go into the medical research fund.
“I’m not going to guarantee something that relates to a consultation that I haven’t completed … that would be duplicitous of me,” she said.
“The medical research future fund has money coming into it now and it’s not dependent on one particular policy.”
Before key parts of the policy were dumped, Coalition MPs had complained to the ABC that it was hard to convince voters they needed to be charged more for going to the doctor when the money was going into a future fund rather than back into the general health budget.
Ms Ley said she was holding consultations about the plan in New South Wales on Tuesday and has released a series of figures that she said backed the Government’s push to charge some patients more money.
She added that New South Wales had the highest GP bulk billing rate in the nation, with nearly nine in 10 visits to doctors bulk billed. adding that the value of Medicare claims in the state had more than doubled in the past decade to over $6 billion per year.
Ms Ley said 10 years ago, the Medicare levy covered 67 per cent of the national cost of Medicare, but that has fallen to just 54 per cent over the past decade.
However she said the Government is not looking at raising the levy.
“If you just increase taxes you end up funding an inefficient system, by saying here’s a revenue stream, let’s just pay whatever it costs” she said.