GP fee should be scrapped for everyone: pensioners

13 August, 2014

Thanks for the thought, but we're just part of the bigger picture. That's the message a major pensioners lobby group is hoping to get across to the federal government amid continued negotiations as to who should be exempted from the GP co-payment Budget measure.

Whilst it is "heartening" the government is looking at specific groups to take the load of the payment off from, the bottom line is the scheme needs to scrapped entirely, the Combined Pensioners & Supperannuants Association of NSW (CPSA) said in a statement on Wednesday (13 August).

"CPSA does not want to see pensioners pitted against others in relation to Medicare. Australia's universal healthcare system should remain just that – universal," said CPSA Manager, Research and Advocacy, Amelia Christie.

Sustainability argument

Minister for Health Peter Dutton said the government was still working on making changes that it and the AMA would be able to agree upon in order to make Medicare more sustainable in the long term.

"At the moment we're tracking on a situation where we're raising $10 billion a year from the Medicare Levy but we're spending $20 billion a year on Medicare and the gap continues to grow each and every year," Dutton told reporters.

Dutton also said he was confident the government would be able to negotiate an agreement with independent senators to garner their support.

"I think if people have good faith … we can arrive at a negotiated outcome … I think the independent senators, like most Australians, realise that our heath system is not sustainable in its current form," he said.

Increasing Medicare levy

However the CPSA slammed the government for continuing to use the sustainability of Medicare as the crux of its argument for the co-payment plan.

"No income raised by the co-payment is set to go into the Medicare system. If the government is worried about sustainability they should look at increasing the Medicare levy, rather than charging people for vital health services," Christie said.

"Despite the current cap of ten visits for pensioners proposed, a recent study has found that an Age Pensioner couple will end up paying $199 more annually than they currently do due to the co-payment and the increase to PBS medications.

"A retiree couple, not on a pension, is set to pay $244 per year more than they pay now. These are costs that many will not be able to absorb without hardship.

"CPSA calls on Australian senators to block the dismantling of universal healthcare for all. Bulk billing is crucial to ensuring that everyone is able to access a doctor when they need it."