Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Quality of health care would suffer under Howard's Medicare plan.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Media Release Senator Jan McLucas Labor Senator for Queensland Chair, Senate Select Committee on Medicare

Quality of health care would suffer under Howard’s Medicare plan

Evidence has been given today in Melbourne that the Government’s “A Fairer Medicare” package would result in poorer quality health care for those with concession cards and more expensive care for everyone else.

The Medicare Inquiry today received evidence from the Australian Psychological Society, the Australian Physiotherapy Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Darebin City Council, the Victorian Medicare Action Group, the Victorian Minister for Health, Professor Jeff Richardson and the Council on the Ageing National Seniors Partnership.

The Darebin City Council gave evidence that under the Government’s proposed changes to Medicare, it was almost inevitable that concession cardholders would wait longer and longer for appointments with their GPs.

The Royal College of General Practitioners gave evidence that prohibitive cost is one of the leading reasons why patients do not follow the advice given to them by their GPs. The College also indicated that rising practice costs are limiting GPs from undertaking preventative care activities.

Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn Pike gave evidence of the direct relationship between the unavailability of bulk billing and the rise in emergency department presentations in Victoria. According to Ms Pike, there have been 2 million fewer bulk billed GP services in Victoria over the last two years and a corresponding 6.5% increase per annum in the number of primary care patients presenting to Victorian emergency departments. Growth in emergency department presentations is highest in outer metropolitan areas where bulk billing has been in greatest decline.

The Victorian Medicare Action Group (VMAG) gave evidence that Australia was moving towards a welfare-based health system and that GPs were not comfortable with the role of deciding who should qualify for bulk billing. VMAG told the Committee that some families now spend up to 21% of their weekly income on health-related costs, and that people preferred to pay for health care through their taxes, not at the point of service.

Today’s hearing in Melbourne brings to an end the first week of the Medicare Inquiry.

“The evidence this week has been very compelling,” said Senator McLucas. “Australians depend heavily on Medicare for their health needs and don’t want to see a system in which the poor are sent to the back of the bulk billing queue while everyone else is asked to pay more for their care.”

The next scheduled hearing of the Medicare Inquiry is in Perth on Tuesday 29 July.

Ends. 24 July 2003

For further information contact: Senator Jan McLucas 0407 169 206 Mary Wood 0421 910 128