Surveys confirm ANMF warning on Medicare rebate freeze

Thursday 30th June, 2016

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says two new surveys of GPs have confirmed its worst fears – that the Turnbull Government’s crippling freeze on Medicare rebates will see an increasing number of doctors abandoning bulk-billing and lead-to higher out of pocket costs for GP visits.

The first survey of 640 doctors, conducted by the Royal College of General Practitioners, showed that only 43 per cent of GPs are bulk-billing 80 to 100 per cent of patients. A second survey of 50 doctors, carried out by the Doctors Reform Society of Australia, revealed more than 30 per cent of GPs may stop bulk billing because of the freeze on rebates, with many saying they planned to charge as much as $100 for a patient visit.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said the Government’s extended freeze on Medicare rebates for doctors is undermining Australia’s universal system of healthcare.

“These surveys by two separate doctors’ organisations only serve to confirm our long-held warnings that Medicare bulk-billing is on the decrease and continues to be under threat,” Ms Thomas said today.

“The Government’s ongoing freeze on Medicare rebates will see more and more doctors being forced to pass on their losses on scheduled items on to their patients, who will be privately-billed for services that were previously bulk-billed.

“As frontline nurses and midwives, we’re concerned that higher out of pocket charges for GP visits will make it harder for low-income earners and struggling families to afford basic health checks. And if this happens, there’s no doubt health outcomes will worsen.”

Ms Thomas said the freeze on Medicare rebates was “just another version of Tony Abbott’s dreaded $7 GP tax”.

“The needy and the most vulnerable in the community will be hurt the most. Any co-payment, in this case a freeze on the rebates doctors are paid, will only continue to dismantle Medicare and lead to higher out of pocket expenses for Australian health consumers and their families,” she said.

“The ANMF is calling on the Government to follow the Opposition’s pledge to remove the six-year freeze on Medicare rebates and commit to bulk-billing for out of hospital pathology tests. In the countdown to Saturday’s election, it’s crucial the Government listens to the ANMF and our members and all of the other health professionals who have warned that health consumers will suffer if it continues to undermine Medicare. The Government, the Opposition and the Greens must let all voters know that they will continue to have access to Australia’s successful system of universal healthcare and be provided with quality healthcare when they need it.”

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The ANMF, with 250,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ANMF media inquiries: 0411 254 390.