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Australian Government Considering Upfront Doctor Fee

Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Australia, Politics, World of the News | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Australian Government Considering Upfront Doctor Fee

Australian Government Considering Upfront Doctor FeeWe all new that Australia’s new – Liberal, conservative coalition – government was going to be tight-fisted. We’ve waited with baited breath, a little anticipation and slight trepidation at just what an Abbott government might do.

So far they’ve been busy doing, well, not much. They’ve gone all CIA on boat people, broken a couple of education promises and scoffed a bunch at the previous governments book keeping skills, no huge surprises.

It seems the surprise announcements have been reserved for 2014, and they’ve started trickling out.

Overnight the Commission of Audit setup by Mr Abbott has revealed it’s received a submission that would see Doctors charging patients $5 for visits. The Government has confirmed it is one of several new fees it’s currently considering ::::

Tony Abbott & Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson

The Australian Medical Association – AMA – has criticised a proposal to introduce an upfront $5 fee to visit a general practitioner. The Commission of Audit, set up by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has received a submission recommending the co-payment system for GP visits.

Under the proposal, pensioners and concession card holders would be exempt from the fee, while families would be granted up to 12 bulk-billed visits annually. The Federal Government says the new fee is one of several recommendations currently on the table.

The AMA says the plan would discourage people from visiting the doctor if they are sick.

“There’s clearly a need to rein in costs, but I think this may not be the area they do want to look at,” AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said. “There are plenty of people now who actually have to choose, ‘Do I go to the doctor? Do I get a prescription?’ If they had to choose again because there was more money required to actually access healthcare, we may find people not going to the doctor who need to go.”

Dr Hambleton says people who are unwell should be encouraged to go to the doctor early.

“Anything that dissuades people from being at their GP, getting good advice, keeping those chronic diseases in check and staying well, would be a concern,” he said.

Terry Barnes, a former senior policy advisor to Mr Abbott while he was health minister in the Howard government, authored the report outlining the measure. He says it would change the way people think about visiting a doctor.

“You would basically be asked the question, do I really need to go to the doctor for this? Could I just look after myself?” he said. “People don’t always need to see a doctor for things that they see a GP for, particularly minor things like coughs and colds and particularly flu in the winter.”

Former PM Adviser Says Fees to Visit Hospital Emergency Wards a Possibility

UPDATE! 30 December 2013: The health consultant responsible for – the above – suggested fee for visiting GPs has hinted that it might be extended to hospital emergency wards. The Australian Centre for Health Research has made a submission to the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit proposing a $6 fee for bulk-billed GP visits to keep the Medicare system going.

But the proposal has raised fears patients with minor health complaints would instead visit hospital emergency departments for medical advice, to avoid paying the GP fee, or avoid seeking help at all.

The author of the report, Terry Barnes, advised Tony Abbott on health policy when the Prime Minister was the health minister and later when he was the opposition leader.

“In terms of emergency departments, I think the simple way to deal with it is to allow the states to charge a matching co-payment for people who do go to an emergency department,” Mr Barnes said.

The report concedes fees will be “controversial and sensitive” if they deter people from seeking treatment for chronic and acute conditions. But Mr Barnes says the likelihood of a small fee stopping people from seeking help is small.

“We think that $5 or $6 would not be enough to deter people from going to the doctors if they absolutely need to,” Mr Barnes said. “We’re saying this is quite reasonable to keep the whole system going. This is sending a price signal to people, there’s no doubt about that… the level of co-payment we’re suggesting is equivalent to a hamburger and fries or a schooner of beer, it’s not a great deal.”

Health Minister Peter Dutton has not ruled out a fee for patients visiting their doctors, saying in a statement the Government “won’t be commenting on speculation around what the Commission of Audit may or may not recommend”.

The report recommends capping the maximum number of fees to 12 per year, which would mean the maximum extra burden for patients would be $72 per year. Doctors would also have the right to waive the fee for any patient in financial hardship.

Asked if Mr Abbott would support the idea, Mr Barnes said the Prime Minister would never support something that was not considered “fair and reasonable”.

“I think the Prime Minister is somebody who is up for a fight for good outcomes and for good policy… but it’s up to the Commission of Audit and the Government to make their own decisions,” he said.

Acting Opposition Leader, Penny Wong Labeled the  Fees a Nasty Surprise

The Opposition says the idea is a direct attack on Australia’s Medicare system which enjoys widespread community support, and says a fee would constitute a ‘tax’ on parents taking their sick children to the doctor.

“I think there are a lot of families who suffer from cost of living pressures, why would we add to it?” Acting Opposition Leader Penny Wong saidl. “This is a nasty surprise, it is a new tax and it is unfair.”

Co-payments were first proposed by the Hawke government but abandoned in 1991.


RELATED! Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Ratchets-up Pressure on Axing Carbon Price

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Ratchets-up Pressure on Axing Carbon Price

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has ratcheted up the pressure on the Labor Party over axing the carbon pricing scheme, saying it would be the “best possible Christmas present” for Australians.

Legislation to repeal the scheme is set for debate in the Senate this week but the bills are headed for defeat at the hands of the Opposition and the Greens.

Parliament has resumed today for the final sitting of the year. In a youtube video statement posted today, Mr Abbott repeated his Government’s assertion that abolishing the price on carbon would save householders hundreds of dollars :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! GONEski! Australian Government Ditching Education Reforms

GONEski! Australian Government Ditching Education ReformsA turnaround in policy position isn’t a huge surprise straight after an election, it sought of goes with the the furniture. Except in this case, apparently, both sides of Australian politics were in FULL agreement prior to the last election?

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied that 10 weeks into governing, he’s breaking a pre-election promise –  to match Labor’s school funding model – saying that his government would “do a little bit better.”

However, promises to one side, Australia’s new Government has just announced it will scrap the previous – Labor – governments plan for school funding reform, and will instead renegotiate individual agreements with all states and territories within the next 12 months.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne says Labor’s arrangements will stay in place for the coming year and will then be overhauled. UPDATED! November 29, 2013: Gonski Co-Author Labels Payne L Plate Minister.

A co-author of the Gonski report has labelled the new Federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, “a minister on L-plates” amid confusion over school funding. Mr Pyne has not yet announced a new funding model for schools after scrapping the Gonski plan that was introduced under the previous Labor government.

Today Mr Pyne met with his state and territory counterparts, who described the talks as “very heated” and said they fear public schools will be the big losers under the new model :: Read the full article »»»»

UNRELATED! Dr Maryanne Demasi’s Playing With My Heart, Again…

REBLOG! Dr Maryanne Demasi’s Playing With My Heart, Again…As previously mentioned, I’m not a huge television watcher, discerning nut no couch-potato, one show I must see each and every week – or I seriously get the grumps – is Catalyst.

For those not-in-the-know, Catalyst is a superlative Australian science program aired weekly on ABC TV, it’s always current, often a lark and most beautifully produced.

My favourite science reporter is back with another superlative question, “Is the role of cholesterol in heart disease really one of the biggest myths in the history of medicine?”

The answer is surprising. In this must see episode of Catalyst, Dr Demasi and team track down some surprising insights.  The science show has come under considerable fire from sections of the medical community for it’s latest two-part special.

Catalyst described the claim that saturated fats and cholesterol causes heart attacks as one of the biggest myths of medical history. Professor Emily Banks, the chair of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines, raised concerns over the program prompting people not to take necessary medicines.

Ms Demasi, a Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Research, says as a broadcaster she has a responsibility to inform the public that people may be using the drugs unnecessarily. Ms Demasi (we should be calling her Dr, but Ms sounds so neat) said via Catalyst’s Facebook page that she moved from medical science to journalism to encourage critical thinking about people’s health :: Read the full article »»»»

Coalitions First 100 Days of Government

source: scribd
source: pm.gov.au
source: ama

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