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Issue #1692      July 8, 2015

Medicare rebate freeze undermines bulk-billing

Hundreds of thousands of Australians now face being forced to pay out-of-pocket fees for a basic doctor visit, as a result of the Abbott Government’s four-year freeze on doctor’s Medicare rebates. The freeze commenced on July 1.

The Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Lee Thomas, described the rebate freeze as “another damaging version of the much-maligned GP tax”.

The ANMF, with over 240,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

“It’s estimated that around five percent of basic health services for non-concessional, bulk-billing patients will be privately billed, which means that an increasing number of Australians will be forced to pay up-front every time they visit the doctor for everyday consultations which were previously bulk-billed,” Thomas said.

“The government may have failed in their attempt at introducing a $7 GP tax but they have managed to slug people with another out-of-pocket medical expense using this freeze on Medicare rebates.

The co-payment could be far larger than the $7, as doctors go over to the Australian Medical Association’s recommended fees. They are more likely to be $35 or more dollars out of pocket.

“Australians already suffer some of the highest out-of-pocket medical expenses in the world and from today the government is making us all pay even more for basic health services.

The freezing of the Medicare rebate over the coming four years will make significant erosions into bulkbilling and leave many families unable to afford the health care they need.

“Nurses and midwives continue to be concerned that under this Government, Australians are being led into a privatised US-style health system, where people only get care if they can afford to pay for it,” Thomas said.

Next article – “Big stick” policies to punish job-seekers

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