Govt brokering 'secret GP fee deal'

20 August, 2014

The federal government has been accused of attempting to broker a secret deal with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) on the proposed GP co-payment.

The government has been holding discussions with the AMA to come up with alternate modelling for the divisive co-payments scheme – dialogue many health groups have recently come out as saying they should be part of.

The Consumers Health Forum CEO Adam Stankevicius said it was "unacceptable" Minister for Health Peter Dutton was restricting negotiations with the one union, whose members would stand to benefit the most from any deal struck.

"Those who will have to pay, consumers and taxpayers, are (being) kept in the dark," Stankevicius said.

"CHF is keen to continue to participate in these discussions. However, we are concerned that the national debate is being impeded by a lack of information on the models which the federal government is considering."

Covert talks 'short-sighted'

It is "deeply disturbing" that nurses and midwives – along with other health professionals and importantly, Australian health consumers – have been excluded, ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas said.

"GP and other services provided by doctors comprise just one part of a multifaceted, complex system," Thomas said.

"The government's efforts to secure support for their proposed co-payment through these clandestine consultations with the AMA are short-sighted.

"They fail to comprehend the breadth of Australia's health services and the wide range of settings in which they are delivered. 

"A compromise deal may bring some benefit to some doctors, though many remain strongly opposed, but there will be no benefit for patients, the health system or the budget.

"Any compromise on co-payments will destroy Medicare, our taxpayer-funded health insurance scheme and shift us from 'universal coverage to universal fees'.

"Even a 'watered down' co-payment will lead to people not getting the care they need, with nurses and midwives, as always, doing their best to treat the ever-increasing number of everyday Australians turning up at hospital emergency departments (ED) because they couldn't afford to see a doctor."

Government 'must' come clean

Thomas said: "On an issue as fundamental to our society as the dismantling of Medicare, it is deeply unhealthy for government to rely on the advice of just one voice for the sake of political gain at the expense of the health of our nation.

"As the country's largest health union, the ANMF demands that the government comes clean about its negotiations with the AMA and commences genuine consultation with all health groups and all consumers."