Doctors say the government risks the wrath of patients at the ballot box if it doesn't lift the freeze
Doctors are challenging the government to match Labor’s pledge to lift the Medicare rebate freeze, or risk the wrath of patients at the ballot box
AMA President Professor Brian Owler today welcomed the ALP’s move as a step to protect fair access to healthcare and better health outcomes as well as ease financial pressures on GPs.
“Labor’s policy today protects patient rebates. It supports and cements one of the most important aspects of our healthcare system – its universality,” Professor Owler said.
“What we need to see now from the Coalition is for them to revisit their policies and come up with a better way to look at health, not just as a cost in the budget but an investment in the future and the healthcare of all Australians.”
The RACGP said it was awaiting more detail on Labor’s promise to resume Medicare rebate indexation on 1 January next year if it is elected on 2 July.
In the meantime, the college is stepping up its campaign warning patients that the continuing freeze will force GPs to hike their fees and fuel increases in out-of-pocket health costs.
RACGP President Dr Frank Jones said the shock budget decision on 3 May to extend the four-year rebate freeze by another two years to 2019-20 had unleashed unprecedented anger among GPs.
“Never before have GPs been so vocal about their views,” he said.
“The RACGP will now accelerate the dissemination of information regarding the consequences to patient care and the on-costs to the other parts of the health system.”
Professor Owler said the ALP’s commitment of $2.4 billion over four years, or more than $12 billion over 10 years, to pay for the policy, was a “significant amount of money going into healthcare, particularly general practice”.
The AMA would not, however, endorse one political party over another.
“But I think when it comes to this election, I think people will be balancing up the healthcare policies. Health is always one of the high priorities people have when they are looking at who to vote for,” he said.
Dr Jones urged all political parties to reflect and commit to removing the freeze on patients’ health.
The college’s “You’ve been targeted” campaign aimed at raising awareness among patients had drawn a passionate response from GPs, he said.
The RACGP would now step up with a broader campaign highlighting additional information on patient care and the on-costs to the health system, via major media outlets including radio and television, he said.
“We urge the federal government to act now, reverse their freeze; It’s bad economics and it’s bad for the health of all Australians,” Dr Jones said.
“Reversing the freeze and consultation with health professionals will start a sensible journey to a long term sustainable and cost-efficient primary health care system.”
Rural Doctors Association of Australia President Dr Ewen McPhee said Labor’s policy would be a sure-fire vote winner in rural communities.