I was really glad to hear Health Minister Sussan Ley say at the annual AMA conference in Brisbane: “The Government is not claiming we’re in a healthcare funding crisis.”
At the same time dark clouds are gathering as the frustration about the patient Medicare rebate freeze rises.
The Medicare rebate is the amount patients get back from Medicare after they visit their doctor. This amount is supposed to go up every year to compensate for inflation and higher costs. The government has frozen the annual indexation for four years.
The Consumers Health Forum said in its analysis of the latest Budget: “The retention of the $1.67 billion freeze in Medicare payments to doctors may mean many patients are likely to face higher medical bills.”
The Guardian reported: “The AMA president, Brian Owler, used his opening address on Friday to call for both sides of politics to lift the ‘damaging’ freeze which could force GPs to start passing costs on to their patients, amounting to a so-called co-payment by stealth.”
And: “The federal government could face another fierce campaign from one of the nation’s most powerful lobby groups if it does not lift its freeze on doctors’ rebates before the next election.”
The RACGP has also indicated that it would consider a new campaign.
It looks like we’re going to get some fireworks again. If consumers, GP groups and the AMA will join forces, the government is going to get a hard time, especially since there is no healthcare funding crisis.