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Transcript of interview with Grant Goldman: 2SM Breakfast: 7 December 2016: more Australians paying out of their own pocket to see a GP under Turnbull's Medicare freeze



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CATHERINE KING MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE MEMBER FOR BALLARAT

E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW 2SM - BREAKFAST WITH GRANT GOLDMAN WEDNESDAY, 7 DECEMBER 2016

SUBJECT: More Australians paying out of their own pocket to see a GP under Turnbull’s Medicare freeze GRANT GOLDMAN, HOST: Catherine King MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare on the line. Good morning Catherine. CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Good morning, good to be with you. THORNTON: I tell you now, it is a sad case when somebody says to you, “you will not pay more for your visits to the GP” and - aloha - we are. KING: It is absolutely the case with Malcolm Turnbull's continued freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, that's the fee that is paid for patients to go and see a doctor, that makes sure that we've got high bulk billing rates in our country. With that freeze going right the way through to 2020, what the Government has done, you see doctors across the country say well I can't afford to bulk bill my patients, I can't afford to bulk bill concession card patients in some cases. I was at a practice yesterday that says it can only bulk bill concession card holders and children, but only between the hours of 9-3. If you need to see a GP outside of those hours, then you need to pay. We've got examples of practices that have already started charging patients a flat fee, it is changing billing practices across the country. And at the end of the day patients are paying for it, they are paying for it either by having to fork out more money, but what we are also seeing is patients deferring decisions to go to the doctor, particularly in some of our poorer communities, where $20 you know, that co-payment, they have to pay the entire fee up front, it's a lot of money for people to find if you are having to go two or three times a week, it is a substantial impost on your budget if you're on a fixed income, so we are starting to see that bite already, The Government is in complete denial about this, they keep saying there is nothing wrong is all okay - it is clearly not okay, and they need to lift the freeze ,they need to work with GPs to keep bulk billing rates high, they actually need to work to make sure that we’re not actually affecting patients so severely. THORNTON: I mentioned before maybe it's time to have a list of doctors across Australia that still bulk bill, it's becoming less and less and I made that point too. KING: Well I think doctors are facing a real tipping point. I was speaking to a doctor yesterday that was saying they are continuing to bulk bill concession card patients but

they are getting, in the suburb they are in, means that there are lots of people in poverty there, but they're saying by the end of next year they’re really going to have to revise that. They've hit the wall, they are literally making no money at all and they can't continue in that way. So it's pretty clear this has been a slow burn and the figures which have come out today, which the Government always puts out the figures of the number of services which are bulk billed, this is now the figure the amount people who are bulk billed all the time. And it's a third of people who are not. So I think again, what it's showing is the Government is really trying to fudge the figures a bit to say there's nothing to see here but we know across the country, every time people are going to see their GP they're actually feeling the brunt of this. So it's time for this freeze to end frankly and we hope, the Government's got an opportunity in the mid-year Budget which it puts down on the 19th December to actually deal with this issue. Malcolm Turnbull - as you rightly pointed out - said that people won't be paying more as a result of his Government’s policies, well they are, and it's time for him to fix it. THORNTON: Look no doubt about it. A lot of people I know, we often talk about this, and it's very rare do you see bulk billing on the Northern Beaches where I live, and for some years many of us are paying out of pocket, the co-payment around about $45 out of pocket, and that can only get worse under what I think is a Government that is not too concerned about health plans, and that is a bit of a worry in itself and I thank you for your call this morning. KING: Thank you for your interest in this and caring about the patients across our community. MEDIA CONTACT: JOANNE CLEARY 0428 816 751