The Abbott Government Will Not Implement Planned Changes To Medicare

PM Tony Abbott with health minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Getty

The Abbott government has reversed the decision on proposed changes to the Medicare rebate system for GP visits.

The pre-Christmas changes to the Medicare health system would have seen Australians paying up to $20 more for an average visit from Monday.

“These changes are no longer going to happen,” Sussan Ley said.

“I don’t want to talk about what the previous policy meant because it’s off the table,” she said.

“I have spoken to medical groups and reiterated my commitment to continue to consult with them,” Ley said.

However, the newly sworn in health minister, says she remains committed to the $5 GP payment, set to come into effect in July.

Ley dropped the government’s pre-Christmas plans, announced by her predecessor and new Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, after suffering heavy criticism from GPs and non-government Senators.

Earlier today Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Brian Owler released a letter he penned to Tony Abbott last week, informing the Prime Minister of the “level of anger and disbelief” for the disregard the government has shown towards the general practitioner community.

Your Government has imposed this significantly detrimental measure on general practice without consultation, with only five weeks’ notice and during a period when they are operating with minimum staff.

You have left it to general practitioners to explain your “savings” measure to the Australian people. This is hardly congruent with a Government that is “totally committed to rebuilding general practice” and that is “cutting red tape”.

Owler urgently requested the government make a “new regulation” to repeal the now-dumped cuts which he said would have seen patients’ Medicare rebates for more than 20 million consultations cut by $20.10, “stripping more than $500 million out of general practice per annum”.

The AMA boss said general practice was the backbone of Australian health care, proven to be cost-effective in preventing, managing and delaying the development of health conditions, and stressed the proposed policy was a short-sighted measure.

Contrary to your Government’s rhetoric, commodifying general practitioner services into 10 minute units of time is not conducive to quality care.

The effect of the regulation will be compounded in mid 2015 when the $5 rebate cut for general patients is introduced, and thereafter with the indexation freeze on Medicare Schedule fees.

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