GP Co-payments: Narrow consultation will deliver narrow-minded options

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is joining other peak bodies to demand the Government consult more broadly about possible changes to their co-payment policy.

“We are pleased that the Government now appears willing to accept that their co-payment policy is flawed and will disadvantage those who most need assistance to access affordable health services,” says AHHA Chief Executive, Alison Verhoeven.  “However, holding discussions on possible alternatives only with the AMA will deliver a narrow view on the issues and potential solutions.”

“While general practice is a critical part of an effective primary care service, it is just one part of a complex system, which includes government, non-government and private providers of primary care, community care, acute, sub-acute and aged care services delivered in a range of settings. Consumers also must have a voice in how our health system is shaped and funded.”

“Health measures announced in the Commonwealth budget go well beyond co-payments for GP services and include additional payments for pathology and medical imaging services, changes to aged care and safety nets, reductions in funding to states for subacute services and reduced incentives for achieving emergency department and elective surgery targets.”

“This is a wide-ranging policy agenda, and the lack of reliable data and evidence to support the proposed changes as well as the lack of consultation has contributed to the Government's difficulty in selling its proposal to the Australian people and the Senate,” says Ms Verhoeven.

“In recent days both Health Minister Dutton and Finance Minister Cormann have restated that the co-payments are required to ensure the sustainability of Medicare.  It is unclear how the copayment will assist with this as the data alleging excessive GP visits have been de-bunked and, in any case, the Government has claimed that the co-payment revenue would be directed to the proposed medical research fund.”

“Minister Dutton has also said that he wants bulk-billing to continue for those people who can’t afford to pay.  As current bulk-billing data focus on services rather than individuals, there is an urgent need for the analysis and release of data that identify the proportion of people that are bulk billed, with breakdowns by location and age in order that the true impact of the co-payments can be modelled and monitored.”

“With so many unanswered questions, the Government's sales job will not get any easier. The broader health sector and the public will not be convinced by the narrow alternatives that arise from back room deals with the AMA, however commendable they may be,” says Ms Verhoeven.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community. For more information, visit

Media Enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven

Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

0403 282 501