Health budget full of pain for patients

15 May 2014

AMA Vice President Professor Geoffrey Dobb said this week that the 2014 health Budget is full of pain for patients. He said that patients – especially vulnerable patients such as the chronically ill, the elderly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and low income families – will pay more for their health care.

“Many Australians already pay a co-payment, and there is a place for co-payments for patients with the right model – but this is not the right model,” Professor Dobb said. “It does not have the right protections.”

Patients will now face higher out-of-pocket costs at their GP, the emergency department, pathology, radiology, and at the pharmacy through new or higher co-payments. The AMA is concerned that too many costs are also being shifted to patients through cuts to Medicare rebates and frozen rebates for specialist services.

“Access to quality primary care will be more difficult for many Australians. The revised safety nets do not provide sufficient support. There will also be a greater red tape burden on general practice, without adequate compensation,” Professor Dobb said.

Professor Dobb said changes to the National Health Reform Funding Agreement will create uncertainty in the states and territories about public hospital funding.

“State budgets will be in danger of being overrun by public hospital cuts. Patients will have longer waits for public hospital services,” Professor Dobb said.

“Put together, the cuts and co-payments threaten fairness and equity in the health system. The AMA recognises the Government’s priority is to achieve a Budget surplus, but it should not be achieved by costing health services out of the reach of ordinary Australians.”

The AMA welcomes:

  • more GP training places, but is concerned they are funded by abolition of the successful Prevocational GP Training Place programs;
  • strong investment in medical research;
  • preservation of prevention and health workforce functions despite the abolition of agencies; and
  • reform to Medicare Locals and creation of primary health networks.

The AMA is concerned there may have been cuts to Indigenous health programs.