AMA: We must discourage our bulk-billing culture

bloodpressure.jpg Doctor. Generic set up photo of a doctor taking a businessmans blood pressure. 5 June 2006. AFR Photo by Andrew Quilty. Generic doctor, health, blood pressure, businessman. SPECIALX 52319 no

bloodpressure.jpg Doctor. Generic set up photo of a doctor taking a businessmans blood pressure. 5 June 2006. AFR Photo by Andrew Quilty. Generic doctor, health, blood pressure, businessman. SPECIALX 52319 no Photo: Andrew Quilty

The government’s budget proposal for a general practice co-payment has been universally condemned since it was announced, and deservedly so. It is bad health policy.

At the request of the Prime Minister, the AMA developed an alternative co-payment model. Last week, we released that proposal. It aims to protect vulnerable groups in our community, while suggesting that where people can afford to contribute they should do so.

The AMA proposes a co-payment of $6.15 for concession card holders and those under 16 years of age, which would be paid for by the government, and not from their own pocket. Only non-concession patients over 16 years of age would be asked to make a co-payment of at least $6.15. This amount was chosen on the basis that it is the current GP bulk-billing incentive. The amount would be indexed.

The government has argued that the co-payment should be a price signal to reduce unnecessary visits to the doctor. However, as the government itself has modelled only a 1 per cent reduction in GP visits, the rationale behind the co-payment proposal is again confused.