Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     

Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     
News

GPs launch widespread campaign against the rebate freeze

22/03/2017
Share:
General medical practitioners have launched a widespread in-practices campaign against the extension of the Federal Government’s freeze on Medicare benefits.

As previously reported by Insight, the announcement that the freeze on the indexation of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) patient rebates would be extended for an additional two years to 30 June 2020 was made as part of the 2016–17 Federal Budget.

On 8 May, the first day of the Federal Election campaign, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) asked its 30,000 member GPs to put up posters in waiting rooms and to speak to patients about the government’s freeze. During the campaign, patients will be asked to use the social media hashtag #youvebeentargeted and write letters to local parliamentary-election candidates.

The following week, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) announced it would be joining the fight, launching a similar campaign using the hashtag #nomedicarefreeze.

The freeze, which includes rebates for services provided by medical practitioners and optometrists, first came into effect in 2012. When the Abbott Government scrapped the Medicare co-payment in 2014, it instead enacted a four-year pause on the indexation of the Medicare rebate paid to general practitioners, which was originally due to end on 1 July 2018 prior to the recent two-year extension.

There will be cumulative health budget cuts of $182 million over four years, incorporating outreach ophthalmology services, and the indexation freeze on the MBS will result in an estimated additional cost saving of $925 million for the Federal Government.

Rising costs

The AMA and Optometry Australia have both made efforts to convince the Federal Government that it should lift the freeze so that the Medicare rebates keep pace with the rising costs of medical and optometrical services.

From 1985 to 2014, average weekly earnings and CPI increased by 3 per cent (as did medical-practice costs), however, Medicare rebates as determined by the Federal Government only increased by 1.7 per cent in the same period.

GPs have indicated that their practices have been largely absorbing the cost of the indexation freeze, and warned that if it continues, services will be affected. It was said that changes would include charging a larger gap to fee-paying patients, choosing to bulk bill fewer patients, and/or asking patients to return for further appointments for follow-ups.

RACGP vice-president Dr Morton Rawlin said medical practitioners expected the #youvebeentargeted campaign to have an impact in marginal seats “where there are people doing it tough”.

large leaderboard
advertisement

“This is just another impost that potentially will go on to them [patients] unless there is change in the position of the government,” Dr Rawlin said.

“The freeze is a false economy because it is cheaper to see a GP than end up in hospital. We are the most efficient component in the health system in Australia yet we are being expected to take a cut when all the other areas are not.”

Dr Rawlin described the freeze as a “co-payment by stealth”, with the value of rebates falling in real terms by 20 per cent to 2020.

“The costs will be put back to the consumer, our patients, which we don’t want to do,” he said. “Doctors can’t continue to take that on board forever.”

Despite the freeze on the rebate, bulk-billing rates have continued to grow and are at a high of 84 per cent.

large leaderboard
advertisement





rectangle
advertisement
Editor's Suggestion
Hot Stories

rectangle
advertisement


OR
 

Subscribe for Insight in your Inbox

Get Insight with the latest in industry news, trends, new products, services and equipment!