Senate report recommends strongly against GP co-payment
In December last year, the Senate established a Select Committee into the Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit. The Committee released its second interim report last week. In the majority report, the Committee “strongly recommends that the government does not implement co-payments for GP consultations and emergency department services”.
In preparing its report, the Committee heard evidence from both proponents and opponents of the co-payment proposal. AMA Vice President Professor Geoffrey Dobb told the Senate Select Committee that “… a significant across-the-board increase in people’s out-of-pocket expenditure may act as a deterrent for people who need to see a medical practitioner, allowing their disease to get worse to the detriment of themselves and, ultimately, of the healthcare system if they present later with more serious and complex disease that requires hospitalisation and a much more costly course of treatment”.
Professor Dobb also cast doubt on the evidence base for the co-payment, pointing out that, according to modelling that was commissioned by the AMA, the co-payment will be at best cost-neutral and might actually end up costing the health system more through downstream costs.
The Committee expressed its view in the report that the most important weapon in good preventative health strategies is effective primary care delivery by GPs. It stated that GPs can assist people to manage complex, multiple and chronic ongoing conditions more effectively, leading to better health outcomes and more efficient health expenditure for government. The Committee said that measures that place a barrier to a person seeing a GP are not in the best interests of keeping people healthy.