Media release

AMA Conference calls for overhaul of co-payments

Delegates to the AMA National Conference in Canberra today 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 reads as follows:

That National Conference calls on the AMA Federal Council to urge the Federal Government to hold urgent talks with the AMA regarding a model of co-payments 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.

Moved:            Dr Morton

Seconded:        Dr Rowbotham

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the AMA is not opposed to co-payments in principle where they are appropriate and equitable.

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA accepts that it is reasonable for people with appropriate means to make a contribution towards the costs of seeing a doctor, but the co-payments announced in the Budget could hurt the most needy and vulnerable.

“The AMA National Conference today called for an overhaul of the model being proposed by the Government because of its potential effects on the most vulnerable patients in the community,” Dr Hambleton said.

“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.

“Co-payments can hit vulnerable groups hard.

“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 Health Minister has made it clear he wants to engage with the profession about the future of the health system, and the Budget decisions will have an enormous impact on the shape of the health system.

“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.

“We will be in contact with the Health Minister to set up meaningful discussions over the co-payments,” Dr Hambleton said.


24 May 2014


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