Health Minister Peter Dutton has fuelled speculation the Government is poised to introduce a new payment for GP visits by indicating high income earners should not expect to see a doctor for free.
There have been reports the Abbott Government will announce a $6 co-payment for bulk-billed GP appointments in the May 13 budget.
The measure is reported to be worth $725 million over four years.
Mr Dutton has refused to confirm the charge will be in the budget, but told a press conference “there’s a lot of reform that needs to take place in health”.
When asked if he could reassure people on low incomes, the Minister said there would always be a “safety net” in place for people who cannot afford to pay.
“We will take care of those that can’t take care of themselves,” he said.
“But at the same time people on incomes like mine, or a reporter on $300,000 or $400,000 a year – should we expect to go to the doctor for free? That’s a reasonable question to ask.
“I want to make sure that we can strengthen Medicare but we’re not going to do that by giving free services in the hundreds of millions each year in a country like ours.
“If we want to provide for people with no means into the future then we’re going to have to have an honest conversation about how we build and strengthen our system.”
The Federal Opposition says it will fight the payment.
“A GP tax is the thin edge of the wedge,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.
“We will see people on fixed incomes, self-funded retirees, people over 55, poorer people will be unfairly hit.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said there are concerns the measure would push people to go to hospital emergency departments instead.
“If you’re trying to reform the health system this is not the way to go about it,” she said.