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Patient charges for medical services

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The latest report from the National Health Strategy released late this afternoon represents Brian Howe's loony left ideological bias against common sense ^approaches in the health arena, Federal Shadow Minister for Health Dr Bob Woods said this evening.

" The paper admits introducing a 25-30% patient charge on medical services, a co-payment, would reduce demand by 25-28%" said Dr Woods.

" Across the board, on 1990/91 budget estimates this would mean Medical Benefits savings of between $1064 and $1192 million and yet the report claims that the impact of such co-payments would be negligible t

The report rightly points out that when Doctors' workloads fall, there is an incentive to treat patients more

intensively. The paper fails to point out however that the major disincentive to such overservicing is a charge to the patient.

The report interestingly states that bulk billing, which is " free " to all patients, represents effective free


In its previous National Health Strategy paper, " Directions for Pathology ", the Government bemoaned the increase in use of pathology services since they became effectively " free" and yet claims that price signals would not deter Doctors from over investigating some patients via extra tests.

Throughout the paper the Government complains that higher Doctors numbers have added significantly to Medicare yet conveniently ignores the fact that it is about to open 2 new Medical Schools in Queensland.

Paul Keating himself, during discussions on new charges on pharmaceuticals announced in last year's budget, indicated that the provision of free services leads to abuse. ["

The introduction of co-payments for pensioner pharmaceuticals . $ : resulted, in the first three months, in the dispensing of five ' ^ 3 and a half million scripts less than the same three months of ' *5 >; the previous year. They dropped from 18,967,796 scripts to \ <

13,463,425 scripts. jo z

While it is possible to argue about the impact of patient |q % charges on an individuals health and their personal finances, j^ όέ it is not arguable that such charges result in a reduction of ' the number of those services used. There are arguments for and against co-payments. The Government should have the honesty to present both sides of the argument."

23rd July 1991 CONTACT OR WOODS 02 745 3200/3713(W) OR 744 1872(H)