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Voters 'strongly opposed' to Medicare co-payment plan: poll

12 May, 2014

Most Australians oppose paying to see a doctor and believe a co-payment will simply mean more people going to emergency departments, new research commissioned by the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has found.

The research released on Sunday (11 May) shows the public are strongly opposed to the idea of paying fees to see a doctor – currently 80 per cent of all doctors' fees across the nation are bulk billed.

The Essential Research organisation polled a large sample size of over 1000 consumers. The results show:

  • 72 per cent of people polled say a $6 co-payment will mean more people will go to emergency departments rather than pay a doctor's fee
  • 69 per cent said a $6 fee will discourage people from seeing GPs
  • 66 per cent of people say they are paying more on health costs than they were just 5 years ... a third of the poll said they were paying "much more"
  • 58 per cent said clearly they would not pay more to have GP visits covered by private health insurance
  • 72 per cent of insured people say their gap and other costs are higher than 5 years ago
  • The majority (57 per cent) of people believe there is a big gap in the quality of care between those who have private health insurance and those who don't

Co-payments will hit chronically ill and people on low incomes the hardest, Adam Stankevicius, CHF's CEO said in a recent statement.

The findings clearly underline the massive concern in the community about how a two-tier health system has developed in Australia as more than half of those polled say there is a big gap in the quality of care between those with insurance and those without, he said.

"If people have to pay to see a doctor, a lot of things are going to change. If they are paying $6, then many people who are used to seeing a GP at no cost are going to put off a visit. Any introduction of a co-payment will be a clear barrier to primary health care," Stankevicius said.

"It's our considered view that a GP co-payment will result in more people going straight to hospital emergency departments. It's feared departments could get flooded. This is why the Commission of Audit has proposed that state governments introduce a charge on low urgency patients attending emergency departments."

The CHF is "totally opposed" Medicare co-payments, according to Stankevicius.

"We believe it would undermine the principle of Medicare in providing universal access to health care. Experiences tell us that a significant number of patients are likely to put off going to the doctor because of cost," he said.

"This would come at a time when we need to be encouraging people to take a more proactive approach to their health, given the rise in chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity – all of which the GP can play a significant role in reducing through advice to patients.

"As it is GPs are seen as cost effective, particularly when compared to the much higher cost of hospital care.

"Australia is facing increasing health costs but there are other ways we can reduce these, by reducing avoidable hospital admissions.

"Australia's health spending is middle-level compared to other countries and we have one of the best health outcomes in terms of access to services and longevity."

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bruni brewin | Monday, May 12, 2014, 12:19 PM
Part of an email I received today - WHEN ARE the over 65 year old voters going to wake up and understand, WE have the power to shape legislation all WE need is the will power to do so-- WHEN WILL THE "GREY REVOLUTION" begin ! Gold plated MP pensions and Civil Service Government benefits, free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, unlimited paid sick days, now that's welfare, and they have the nerve to call those of us over 65 years of age 'greedy' and our retirement, an ‘entitlement’... They call Old Age Security and Healthcare an entitlement even though most of us have been paying for it all our working lives, and now when it’s time for us to collect, the government has run out of money. Why did the government borrow from our retirement fund in the first place? What is wrong with us? WAKE UP Australia !
Wendy Geduld | Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:14 AM
I am just disgusted & frightened of this budget hitting the senior pensionsers like my husband & myself. My husband is chronically ill & sometimes has to go to the Dr 3 times a week. He has just come out of hospital again. Now we have to pay $7 to visit? I wonder if Joe Hockey on a $260 a week pension could afford petrol, Dr's fees, medicine & have some left over for food. We have already mortages our house 2x so that we may live. This is the house we worked all our lives to pay off before retirement! And what about the big mining giants they are exempt????
Paul OBrien | Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 12:24 PM
I, too am disgusted with the budget decision to ad a co-payment, to reduce the schedule fee paid to GPs for bulk billed consultations AND the restriction of access to Health Care cards by self funded retirees. My wife and I worked hard, studied hard and saved hard all our lives. We have never drawn a cent from the welfare system AND are self funded retirees who will never get a cent from the pension (despite having a only a modest nest egg). Now the government intends to stop us from having a Health Care Card because we "don't need it". How about giving us a little reward for our contribution to the community during our lives and our continuing contribution as volunteers in retirement...GIVE US A BREAK!