Hammondville general practitioner Dr Sayeed Khan fears for the lives of his chronically ill patients if the Federal Government’s $7 co-payment for visiting the doctor is passed.
But a spokesman for Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton said the government would put in place a number of safety nets, including for people with chronic illness, “to protect the most vulnerable among us” such as capping the co-payment for concessional patients.
Dr Khan has labelled the proposed fee an “unfair and unnecessary tax”.
“Only a mad person can put this huge cost on Australians who have lived with a free system for more than 30 years.”
Each week between 1500 and 2000 patients come through the Allcare Medical Centre Hammondville, where Dr Khan has practised for more than 20 years.
He estimates at least 40 per cent of those require check-ups every second or third day.
“As the cost adds up, this will have drastic consequences for them,” Dr Khan said.
“Many won’t be able to afford the fee and will join the hospital queue or die at home.”
He said if he can legally treat his chronically ill patients for free, he will.
He also expects the centre will need to hire extra staff to handle money collection.
“It just makes no sense for us to go in this direction when other countries are trying to achieve the health care system we have.
“I am hoping the Greens and Labor parties block this in the senate so it doesn’t go any further.”
Patient Sebastian Puglia said the impact would be minimal on him, but he hoped it wasn’t passed.
“It would be a great concern for quite a few people,” he said.
The Minister’s spokesman said it’s important to remember bulk-billing will be retained and doctors remain free to charge patients what they want.
“Concessional patients will have the number of times they are charged a $7 co-payment capped at ten. After that, they revert to bulk-billing arrangements,” he said.
The spokesman said the payment is needed to make Medicare spending, set to double to $38 billion a year in a decade, sustainable.
“Despite the changes we’re making to strengthen Medicare, the Government anticipates a rise in the number of GP consultations when co-payments are introduced,” he said.
“Our modelling reflects a 3.7 per cent jump in the overall number of GP consultations.
“Our changes will strengthen Medicare for all Australians and ensure that it remains sustainable into the future. For that to happen, however, we’re asking that everyone make a small contribution.”
The spokesman said the notion of a co-payment is nothing new.
“Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke introduced a co-payment in 1991, Kevin Rudd commissioned two reports which detailed the unsustainable nature of our current system, while current Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh is also a strong supporter,” he said.
* source: Article published on the Daily Telegraph (link) – Alison Balding, Liverpool Leader, May 21, 2014