Senate hears about the effects of GP rebate freeze

Senator Deborah O’Neill used her first Senator’s Statement of the year to mark Medicare’s 33rd birthday, and vowed Labor would protect it from attacks by the Coalition Government.
Senator O’Neill told the Senate the effects of the Liberal-National Government’s slow and steady campaign to dismantle Medicare, particularly through the GP rebate freeze, was now hurting doctors and the community.
“The Medicare Taskforce hearing in Wyong was told that the latest data from the local Primary Health Network revealed that 15,000 people from a population of 320,000 across the Central Coast indicated they’ve delayed seeing their GP due to the rising cost,” Senator O’Neill said.
“To stay in practice and do the great work they do for the community, doctors across the country have, regrettably, had to change their billing practises and drop bulk billing, forced to pass on this shortfall to patients, many of whom are finding themselves out of pocket for a visit to the doctor.
“Patients, in some circumstances, are paying $70 to $100 upfront to see their GP, and often these are people on pensions, who are on concession cards, having to make decisions about whether they can afford to see their GP.
“The day before the election, Mr Turnbull pulled $1.75m out of his pocket to give to the Liberal Party.
“On that same day, he said that Australians would not pay out of pocket to see the doctor.”
The Health Department’s “Quarterly Medicare Statistics – September Quarter 1984 to September Quarter 2016” clearly show out-of-pocket costs for a doctor’s visit had risen 4.92 per cent in NSW in 2016-17, Sen O’Neill said.
“Liberal MP Lucy Wicks can’t deny the evidence given to the Taskforce and, indeed, her Government’s own figures,” she said.
“Those opposite can say all they like that bulk billing rates are up, but these figures prove the community is forking out more.”

Media release,
Feb 8, 2017
Rhys Zorro, office of Senator Deborah O’Neill

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