Why medical bills must be an election issue

If you were watching the ABC’s Four Corners you will have seen a deeper than usual report into the escalating medical bills Australians are facing. It’s an issue we’ve been highlighting for a number of years. And it’s been a major issue ever since the Coalition came to power, first under Abbott and now under Turnbull; the government has hit Australians hard with ever increasing healthcare costs by freezing Medicare rebates for a range of services even though charges are increasing.

At the last federal election the issue of rising healthcare costs was quite damaging to the Coalition, especially given the fact they had chosen to freeze Medicare rebates on vital things like pathology tests and diagnostic imaging. It meant that hundreds of thousands of Australians saw out-of-pocket expenses skyrocket and as illustrated in the Four Corners report the out-of-pocket expenses are still increasing.

What was largely ignored by the Four Corners report was the ever increasing gap payments people are making around pathology testing. Testing as you know is an absolutely vital part in the diagnosis and treatment of people requiring medical care. Without the testing it’s not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of someone’s health complaint or how to best treat it. And with the federal government continuing the rebate freeze on testing, it is adding thousands of dollars to people’s healthcare costs. Despite the government announcing in this year’s federal budget the unfreezing of rebates for diagnostic imagining, Australians will still be forced to pay ever larger gap fees for pathology tests.

And with stagnant wages, growing inequality at work, and ever increasing living costs, more and more Australians are finding themselves making tough decisions about whether they should seek medical assistance or pay the rent/mortgage and bills. These are decisions Australians should not be forced to make in such a rich country like ours. But instead of recognising the skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs for healthcare the federal government has entrenched higher costs for Australians every time they need to get a pathology test done.

When the next federal election comes around, it’s vital that we make it about healthcare costs and ensuring that every Australian, regardless of their capacity to pay, is able to access pathology tests when they need it. The federal government cannot continue to back cuts to company taxes while it allows ordinary Australians who pay their taxes to be left struggling with escalating costs in accessing quality healthcare.

In the meantime we will continue lobbying for change and making sure we continue to deliver the best outcomes for you, our members.

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