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01 Aug 2014

Transcript: AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, Radio 4BC Brisbane, 1 August 2014

Subject: GP co-payment


PATRICK CONDREN: But first, the future of the Abbott Government's proposed $7 GP co-payment. Health Minister last night met with AMA president, A/Prof Brian Owler, who is with us now. Dr Owler, good morning. Thanks for your time this morning.

BRIAN OWLER: It's a pleasure, Patrick.

PATRICK CONDREN: What did you take from your meeting with Peter Dutton last night?

BRIAN OWLER: Look, it was a positive meeting. We met for a couple of hours and discussed not only the co-payment but a range of other issues. And we had a good hearing of our thoughts around an alternative model, and we've asked the Government to consider that, and they've given an undertaking to go back and think about the model and the proposal that we put forward.

And then I expect there'll be more discussion to come in the near future.

PATRICK CONDREN: What did you put to the Minister?

BRIAN OWLER: Well, I'm not in a position to tell you exactly what I put to the Minister. I think the Government deserves the opportunity to consider our alternative proposal, and the discussions to happen in good faith afterwards.

PATRICK CONDREN: Why is the $7 co-payment not a good idea?

BRIAN OWLER: Well, as the AMA said many times, we're not opposed to co-payments per se, and many doctors already charge co-payments. But we can't support this proposal under the recent Budget because of the implications for vulnerable patients, the lack of protection and safety net for them. And the implications for some practices, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and because it does go against some of our health policies in terms of encouraging prevention and chronic disease management. So, that is the issue that we have with the current proposal. And so, they're some of the things that our proposal tries to address.

PATRICK CONDREN: Is there a great deal of confusion in the community at present about the co-payment?

BRIAN OWLER: Well, I think initially there was certainly some confusion as to when the co-payment may or have come in. Of course, the proposal doesn't have it coming in until 1 July next year. I think the current proposal is a little bit complex for people to understand. People didn't quite understand that it was not just the GP co-payment, but also a pathology and diagnostic imaging co-payment.

But I think people are actually - have started to understand the implications of the proposal and, obviously, any alternative model needs to be fairly straightforward and simple for people to understand.

PATRICK CONDREN: Do you support the idea of any co-payment at all?

BRIAN OWLER: Yes, and look, the AMA has always said that doctors should charge the fee that they feel is reasonable to cover their costs and their professional service, and there are many doctors that already charge co-payments; 20 per cent of GP visits already attract some form of co-payment and often that's in excess of the $7. So, we're not against co-payments per se, but where people can afford to contribute, I think that's a good thing. But obviously, we need to make sure that there are protections for people in our community for whom $7 even is a significant barrier to them accessing health care.


1 August 2014


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Published: 01 Aug 2014