AMA Conference calls for overhaul of co-payments

29 May 2014

Delegates to the AMA National Conference last week passed a resolution calling on the AMA Federal Council to hold urgent talks with the Federal Government to overhaul the doctor visit co-payments announced in the May Budget.

The Conference resolution outlined a number of principles for discussion with the government regarding a co-payment model that:

  • recognises that general practice, pathology and diagnostic imaging are  delivering high quality and efficient health services for patients and the need for strong investment in these areas;
  • provides adequate support for vulnerable patients so that they are not discouraged from accessing primary care services, which would otherwise increase the burden of chronic and preventable diseases and health care costs into the future;
  • allows for exceptional circumstances arrangements where the co-payment can be waived without any financial penalty being incurred by the doctor;
  • recognises the right of doctors to establish a fair fee based on the costs of providing a service;
  • ensures practices are properly funded to cover the initial and ongoing costs of collecting co-payments; and
  • minimises the costs of compliance for practices by providing an efficient means to confirm patient eligibility for safety net arrangements and adopting simplified billing arrangements.

In speaking about the motion, the then AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the AMA is not opposed to co-payments in principle where they are appropriate and equitable, but the co-payments announced in the Budget could hurt the most needy and vulnerable.

“Overseas evidence shows that better health outcomes are delivered when barriers to primary care are low. Front line primary care services are very efficient and are a low cost part of the Australian health system. Encouraging patients to access this part of the health system reduces pressure on the hospital sector and can avoid the need for more expensive medical interventions,” Dr Hambleton said.

He added that the Government's model will also add red tape and require practices to put in place extra infrastructure and staffing to implement this proposed model.

The AMA is well-positioned to help the Government design a fairer and more equitable model that meets the needs of patients, medical practices, and the Government. The AMA will seek to set up meaningful discussions with the Minister for Health over the co-payments.

At its meeting on Wednesday this week, United General Practice Australia (UGPA) supported the call for an overhaul of the co-payment model.

See the video of The Health Budget policy session with Dr Hambleton, Dr Brian Morton, Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, and Elizabeth Geelhoed, Professor in Health Economics at the University of Western Australia - Saturday 24 May Session 2:

Full media release.