Changes to Medicare threatens universal healthcare

The state and federal budgets will be handed down over the next fortnight. And already there has been a great deal of commentary about the depth of cuts to public health; with plans floated for co-payment fees to see their local GP.

There are some very real issues facing Australia’s healthcare system but to maintain the mantra of ‘sustainability and affordability’ will fundamentally see our healthcare system collapse as patients’ actual healthcare needs aren’t met at the time they present.

And we can expect the health of Australians to begin to suffer with the Abbott Government giving strong consideration to a proposal for up-front fees to visit the GP. This proposal hasn’t been confirmed but given the growing commentary around the proposal, there is greater concern than ever that this year’s budget will see the introduction of up-front fees to visit the GP.

We already know from the experience of changes to Medicare under the Howard Government that fewer and fewer GPs offered bulk-billing, forcing more and more people to present to hospital emergency wards for treatment of colds, flus and minor medical complaints; the very sort of thing that GPs used to handle. And it is this fact which makes the claims by the Abbott Government that it wants to slash unnecessary GP visits to be entirely disingenuous.

It is clear that the conservatives are gearing up for an attack on the basic underpinnings of Medicare – access for all Australians to affordable health care, irrespective of income, where they live, and their social status.

Should the Abbott Government be successful in its changes to Medicare by introducing up-front fees to visit GPs, we can expect to see an increasingly unhealthy Australia; and result in more significant costs to public health and the budget.

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