Co-payment guessing game: Refused FOI request shows no data, no evidence and no idea

Friday, June 6, 2014

The refusal by the Department of Human Services of an FOI request by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) for data on the number of people who are bulkbilled raises serious doubts about the validity of the Government’s claims on the effect of co-payments.

Supporters of the co-payment model repeatedly cite figures about the proportion of services that are bulkbilled, but this tells us nothing about the number of people who are bulkbilled,” Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of theAHHA said today. “As the National Commission of Audit Report and the Budget papers contained no detail of the numbers of people that would be affected by the co-payment proposal, we had to resort to requesting data from the Department of Human Services through an FOI application.”

Our FOI request for information on the number of people that are bulkbilled was refused on the basis that no document exists that contains the information sought, and that to produce it would require additional work not currently undertaken.” 

While Health Department officials revealed at Senate Estimates hearings this week that they had not undertaken any modelling on the impact of the co-payment on public hospital emergency departments, the Minister has stated that Department of Health modelling suggests that the co-payment will stop only 1% of people going to the doctor in the first year of operation.  Given that there is no data currently available on the number of people that are bulkbilled, we would be very interested to learn how this estimate was developed.”

The co-payment policy is rapidly becoming an evidence-free zone, with the Commission of Audit claims about GPattendance rates being disproved, no apparent efforts made to model the potential impact, and no baseline data available to evaluate its effect over time.”

The AHHA calls on the Minister to ensure comprehensive bulkbilling information is made available – both to assist the Government in informing its policy development, and to provide clarity to the community and the health sector about the impact of the co-payment policy.”


Media inquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive   0403 282 501