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GP Tax to hit regional GPs already feeling the squeeze

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People in regional and rural Australia will be the first to feel the impact of the Coalition’s new GP Tax Shadow Assistant Minister for Health Stephen Jones said today.

“We’re seeing increasing examples of patients in country areas paying additional fees for the same service that patients in metro areas take for granted.

“GPs are already struggling to keep their practices afloat. The new GP tax could send them to the wall, and in the end it’s the patients who will suffer.

“The Abbott Government ill-conceived GP Tax is creating more out-of-pocket costs for patients in rural and regional Australia to access basic medical services.

“Over a million Australians outside of metropolitan areas already struggle to access basic primary health care. Many could now be forced to pay more in costly annual fees just to be kept on their GPs books because of the costs incurred with charging the GP Tax.”

“The Coalition was forewarned that this would happen”, said Jones.

President of the Rural Doctor’s Association, Dr Ian Kamerman has told the Government that the GP Tax will make rural and regional GPs face the tough choice: force their already struggling patients to pay more out-of-pocket, or bulk-bill them and put even more pressure on their practice’s viability.

“The Abbott Government should know the increased costs associated with running GP practices and the delivering basic medical services in rural and regional areas since it was one of the National Party’s key election platforms”, said Jones.

Before the election, they stated:

“The Nationals will provide increased financial support for doctors who provide health services in regional and remote communities, through increased Medicare rebates and scheduled fees loaded on top of regular Medicare billings, which will increase according to remoteness.”

The National Party ‘Our Plan for Regional Australia’, Page 45

Minister for Health Peter Dutton’s response to the concern of rural and regional GPs today makes it very clear that the Nationals have once again been rolled by their Liberal colleagues.

A spokesperson for the Minister today stated that GP fee structures were a matter for individual practices within the existing provisions of the Health Insurance Act.

“The response from Minister Dutton is an absolute cop out” said Jones.

“It’s not good enough for the Government to introduce a reckless and unnecessary policy like the GP Tax that will hurt millions Australian patients, and then just wipe their hands of the issue and say ‘it’s not our problem anymore’.

“The Liberal members of the Abbott Government’s are completely out of touch with rural and regional Australia.

“It’s time for Nationals MPs in regional areas to show some guts and finally stand up against their Liberal colleagues to fight for their own policy.”

Saturday 21 June, 2014