Minor change 'could' make GP co-payment model more popular

04 August, 2014

Exempting pensioners from the controversial proposed GP co-payment might make it more popular in the public's eye, according to a government MP.

After conducting a series of community forums across his electorate, Queensland Liberal National MP George Christensen has told reporters despite getting negative feedback, it would be a "good move" politically for the government to exclude pensions and those born before 1956 from the scheme.

"It will be no surprise to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or anyone else that the GP co-payment isn't popular," he said.

"Overwhelmingly, the feedback on the issue is that you must exempt pensioners."

NSW Liberal MP Alex Hawke said the possible exemption was an adjustment were considering.

"The GP co-payment is going to be appropriate for the bulk of people," he said.

"But how it applies to pensioners and the most vulnerable is something we can iron out the bugs on."

'Health policy, not economic one'

Talks have been continuing in Canberra between the government and health lobby groups in order to come up with a more practical co-payment model.

Most recently, the discussion at United General Practice Australia (UGPA) on Sunday (31 July) was "constructive", according to AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler.

"The AMA has enjoyed positive dealings with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Health Minister over our concerns, and this spirit of cooperation was in evidence again last night in my talks with Mr Dutton," he said.

"We have been quite open that our plan will not deliver the savings that the Government sought with its Budget proposals.

"Instead, we have offered the Government a fairer and more equitable plan. We have proposed a health policy, not an economic policy.

"We will meet again soon, once the AMA alternative plan has been properly considered by the Minister and his Department."

UGPA said it supported the AMA in leading negotiations with government on an alternate model on behalf of general practice and its commitment to produce a more prudent model.

The AMA indicated its negotiations with the government will be centred on the following principles:

  • No cuts to Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) patient rebates for general practice, pathology and imaging services
  • The need to protect vulnerable patients, including children to ensure timely and clinically appropriate access to general practice services at no detriment to the general practitioner
  • Improving the value patients place on general practice services, recognising it is reasonable for those with appropriate means to share in the costs of accessing general practice care.