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20 Jul 2015

MEDICARE UNDERMINED AS REBATES KEPT IN DEEP FREEZE 

AMA FAMILY DOCTOR WEEK, 19-25 July 2015

You and Your Family Doctor: the best partnership in health 

The AMA is warning that there will be a sharp rise in the number of GP visits where patients face out-of-pocket costs unless the Federal Government immediately lifts the freeze on Medicare patient rebates.

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said today that AMA Family Doctor Week is a good opportunity to highlight the devastating impact that the freeze is having on local GPs and their patients. Professor Owler said that about 82 per cent of GP visits are currently bulk billed at no cost to the patient, but that would become increasingly difficult for doctors to sustain unless the rebate freeze is lifted.

“There has been no increase to Medicare patient rebates for consultations and operations since 2012, and GP services were last indexed on 1 July 2014. The Government plans to keep them frozen until mid-2018,” Professor Owler said.

“While Medicare rebates remain on hold, underlying inflation and wages are growing at 2.35 per cent a year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports hospital and medical costs increased by 6.5 per cent in a year.

“Family doctors treat 18.5 million patients each year, providing a vital service to help keep people healthy and out of expensive hospitals care.”

Professor Owler said GPs worked hard to provide quality affordable patient care, but inadequate indexation is making it harder to maintain the viability of practices.

“Medical practices cannot continue to absorb the ever-increasing costs of running a small business and remain viable,” Professor Owler said.

“The costs of providing general practice services – including wages for practice staff, rent, electricity, computers, continuing professional development, practice accreditation and professional insurance – are constantly rising.

“The Government must recognise that the cost of providing medical services increases each year, as practice costs increase, and that the single fee charged by the doctor has to cover practice costs.

“Patients will face increasing out-of-pocket costs as bulk billing declines. The Medicare rebate freeze is a GP co-payment by stealth.”

Professor Owler said the AMA was campaigning hard to convince the Government to lift the Medicare rebate freeze as early as possible.

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As part of Family Doctor Week 2015, the AMA has produced a number of videos highlighting the important contribution family doctors make to the health of the nation, including:

·         General Practice: More a Passion than a Job

·         Prevention and Care throughout Life

·         Plan for Pharmacists in General Practice

All the videos can be downloaded from the AMA Family Doctor Week website at https://ama.com.au/family-doctor-week-2015

AMA Family Doctor Week is proudly sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Cutcher & Neale, and AMEX.


20 July 2015

CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Odette Visser                      02 6270 5412 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 20 Jul 2015