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29 Jul 2014

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Parliament House Doorstop, 29 July 2014

Subject: Out-of-pocket costs for healthcare


BRIAN OWLER: Well, thank you everyone, as you know, I've just been addressing the Senate inquiry in relation to out-of-pocket expenses. There was a lot of interest, obviously, in the co-payment issue, particularly around the GP co-payments and the AMA was happy to provide a discussion around its submission.

As people will be aware, the AMA cannot support the Government's current co-payment proposal because of several issues mainly to do with the issues for vulnerable patients, those that really can't afford to pay the co-payment, the issues to do with the viability of some medical practices, not just in general practice, but also in radiology or diagnostic imaging and because it goes against the grain of health policy, which should be to encourage people to see their GP for preventative healthcare and chronic disease management.

QUESTION: Can you give an update exactly where things are at with the progress on the proposal you're going to put to the Government?

BRIAN OWLER: So we're not, obviously, ready to release the proposal, but we have been working on the alternative model. We've been talking to our members, our AMA Council of General Practice, who make sure that they are happy with an alternative model that we've been discussing. I think what I can say is that the AMA's alternative model will do what the Government has said it wants to achieve, which is to send, in its words, a price signal.

But I think in our words, the better description would be to put a greater value on general practice. But it will also have protections for those that are most vulnerable in our community, those that truly can't afford to pay a co-payment, and encourage people to see their doctor for preventative healthcare.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say the amount to be earned would be massively less?

BRIAN OWLER: I've said to the Government that our alternative proposal is not about a proposal that will fund the Medical Research Future Fund. Now we know that the proportion of funding for the Medical Research Future Fund, only a fraction of it actually comes from the GP co-payment proposal, so there are other sources of funding for the Medical Research Future Fund.

And look, while we think the Medical Research Future Fund is a very important thing for the future of Australian research and the health of Australians going forward, but we're not going to advocate to take the money out of primary healthcare to put it into a tertiary level research fund.

QUESTION: But, by necessity, will the amount raised be less because you're protecting more vulnerable?

BRIAN OWLER: Look, we're not looking at it as a trade-off. We're very much focused on the issues surrounding the GP, pathology, and diagnostic imaging co-payments, because that's a very substantial and new change and I think that's where our efforts are focused. Thank you.



 29 July 2014


CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

Published: 29 Jul 2014