Ongoing Medicare rebate freeze sends a shiver through patients and medical practices
AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said today that the ongoing indexation freeze of Medicare patient rebates is placing further pressure on the viability of many medical practices, especially general practices, and forcing patients to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for their health care.
Today is the third anniversary of the Medicare rebate freeze. There has been no increase to Medicare patient rebates for consultations and operations since 2012. GP services were last indexed on 1 July 2014.
While the Medicare rebate indexation remains at zero, the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) is at 1.3 per cent, the Wage Price Index (WPI) is at 2.3 per cent, and the ABS reports an increase in Hospital and Medical Costs of 6.5 per cent.
“The rebate indexation freeze is a co-payment by stealth, and it is currently planned to continue until 1 July 2018,” Professor Owler said.
“The freeze is delivering savings of $1.3 billion over four years to the Government.
“This funding shortfall has to be met by patients and practices.
“While the rebates have remained unchanged, the costs of providing quality medical services continue to rise.
“Practice costs such as wages for practice staff, rent, electricity, technology, and insurance are increasing every year.
“Medical practices cannot absorb these increasing costs for four years in a row and remain viable.”
Professor Owler said the freeze is also having a significant effect on private health insurance.
“Some private health insurers have indexed their schedules of medical benefits, which means they are covering the Government’s shortfall.
“Other insurers will not index their medical benefits until the Government lifts the freeze.
“This will put upward pressure on the costs of medical services and private health insurance premiums,” Professor Owler said.
The AMA will continue lobbying the Government to lift the Medicare rebate freeze as early as possible.
1 July 2015
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Published: 01 Jul 2015