Abbott shifts toxic co-payment proposal onto doctors
end-of-year policy mess by shifting responsibility for its politically
disastrous GP co-payment proposal to doctors.
In an announcement with Health Minister Peter Dutton, the
Prime Minister this afternoon announced the co-payment would become
“optional” for doctors to charge, reinforced with a $5 per consultation
cut in Medicare funding for doctors for adults without concession cards.
The government “wouldn’t mind” doctors charging a co-payment to make up
for the shortfall, said Abbott, in effect shifting responsibility to
The policy would work in exactly the same way as the
government’s original co-payment policy, which has failed to attract
support in the Senate and proven deeply unpopular with voters, except
that it wouldn’t apply to children or concession card holders, nor would
it apply to pathology tests. However, the government will restructure
consultation guidelines for Medicare payments to further reduce payments
to doctors for short consultations.
The Prime Minister appeared to admit doctors had not been
consulted about the “optional co-payment” when questioned. The
Australian Medical Association has been a vociferous critic of the
original proposal and is unlikely to be supportive of this change, which
shifts full responsibility for charging patients onto doctors under the
guise of being “optional”.
Savings will still be directed to a medical research fund,
which Abbott vigorously defended, demanding to know who would not be in
favour of medical research. The use of savings for the research fund has
undermined government efforts to sell the co-payment as necessitated by
the budget situation it inherited.