As the saying goes: a fool and his money are soon parted. We’ve all paid for super clinics, the PCEHR, Medicare Locals, phone lines – you name it. Unfortunately, all these ideas have yet to bear fruit. Some say we should have spent our precious health dollars more wisely, especially in the current climate of ever-increasing health care costs.
Many GPs warned that spending too much money on these and other (non-proven) novelties would eventually come back to bite us. I tend to agree. For example, instead of building expensive, non-viable super clinics, we should have improved access to care by expanding existing GP infrastructure.
So, it was only a matter of time before the headlines appeared: “Australia ‘running out of money’ for Medicare: Hockey”, or: “Health Minister Peter Dutton opens door to GP co-payment”.
The government is putting the knife in general practice: Medicare rebates are still frozen and now there’s the idea of GP co-payments. This will be another missed opportunity to further improve the health of Australians. If people would defer a visit to the GP because of co-payments and end up in hospital, health care costs will go up instead of down (I have been told a visit to the GP is about ten times cheaper than a visit to the emergency department).
Prevention is better than cure. AMA president Steve Hambleton said in The Australian: “The big drivers in health care costs are not spending in general practice; it’s actually tobacco, it’s alcohol, it’s over nutrition (…) We need to make sure we continue to get access to GPs so we can do that health promotion and prevention and keep people out of the expensive part of the health system.”
We know that investing in general practice pays off in many ways. Let’s hope policy makers will listen this time.