Gannon vows to push for GP reform

3 minute read

The newly elected AMA president says he will work with all sides of politics to end the Medicare rebate freeze


Newly elected AMA President Dr Michael Gannon says he will work with all sides of politics to end the Medicare rebate freeze and establish a better system of funding general practice

Upon his election at the AMA’s national conference in Canberra on Sunday, Dr Gannon said the MBS indexation freeze was wrong and unfair, adding GPs were at breaking point owing to continued underinvestment in general practice.

“We support the ALP’s policy in this area,” he said, referring to Labor’s pledge to roll back the MBS freeze after the Coalition government decided in its 3 May budget to extend the four-year indexation pause by another two years to 2020.

The Perth obstetrician defeated outgoing AMA Vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis to succeed Professor Brian Owler at the helm of the peak doctors’ body.

Speaking later to TMR, Dr Gannon clarified his view that ending the freeze was his top priority in the 2 July federal election campaign, but even a victory would necessitate a “new conversation” on winning a better deal for GPs.

“If Labor wins the election and lifts the freeze, it’s not as if we have a sustainable primary-care sector in the way people see GPs. The rebate, even at that level with subsequent indexation, remains inadequate to provide high-quality general practice,” he said.

“What I would like to see is a conversation within the AMA and between the AMA and the government about how we fund quality general practice but at the same time make sure … there remain the appropriate protections for those where even small out-of-pocket expenses are enough to stop them seeking care.

“It would be fair to say the holy grail for many GPs would be to charge their own fee … in addition to receiving the patient rebate.”

An effective arrangement would be very different from having the government mandate a co-payment, as the Coalition tried to do in 2014.

GPs wanted to be able to make the choice to bulk bill individual patients in certain clinical conditions, allowing them to making that judgment at that point in time, Dr Gannon added.

Health Minister Sussan Ley told AMA conference delegates at the weekend that her door was open to talk about Medicare reform allowing GPs to set their own fees and where patients could cover a gap payment.

“It has been said to me that that makes sense. My position is, I’m still listening,” she said.

The medical profession would need to make a convincing case that the policy would not be inflationary, and the reform would go nowhere without bipartisan backing, she said.

“I might invite you as an organisation to strongly make the case, if you want to make the case, to make it across the board and have it adopted by parliament in a bipartisan fashion,” Ms Ley said. “Because if it becomes political, it is highly unlikely to happen.”

Dr Gannon said he had spoken only briefly to Ms Ley since his election, to confirm his will to work constructively, but he had not engaged in any policy discussions with the minister or the opposition side of politics.

“I have indicated I will work with everyone because that’s the best way of coming up with the best health policies,” he told TMR.

“It’s also indicative of the tightness of the political contest. I think everyone is in play.”

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×