Is this really the kind of health care system we want?

Most people seem unaware that on January 19, the Medicare rebate for a GP consultation lasting 6-10 minutes will fall from $37.05 to $16.95, and then down to $11.95 from July 1.

I am a GP. Sometimes I can resolve a patient’s problem in less than 10 minutes. This is usually because of the fact that I know a particular patient or family very well, because our practice provides continuity of care, and because we have years of education, experience, and hard work behind us. Occasional shorter consultations provide a much-needed opportunity to reduce the waiting room back-log while still offering high-quality care.

Forty per cent of my billings go directly to my practice to cover staff wages and their entitlements, rent, accreditation, supplies, etc. None of these costs will drop despite the rebate falling 54 to 67 per cent over the next six months. This is an intolerable insult to the practice of family medicine.

GPs earn considerably less than other medical specialists and yet we are crucial to cost-effective healthcare. It beggars belief that I should use my experience and decision-making capabilities, and expose myself to medico legal risk for $11.95. I cannot do it. And it is unfair to expect families to be able to absorb the huge gap that will be necessary to keep medical practice viable – especially with further reductions for the 10-20 minute consultation planned for July, and the freezing of all these reduced rebates until 2018. Is this really the kind of health care system we want?

Dr Jennifer Sterrett

Comments:

Dr Jennifer Sterrett has exposed another example of the Abbott government’s willingness to sandbag the electorate by stealth to get its own way.

GPs are the frontline troops in our health system. And, despite a common public perception, they are hardly well-remunerated for their years of training and responsibilities in overseeing the health of our citizens. Additionally they are small businesses with all of the pressures which that involves.

Due to public opinion the Abbott government was forced to back down on the unfair copayment policy. However, Tony Abbott’s crass stubbornness would never allow him to truly acquiesce. Instead he is now applying pressure to GPs by reducing their rebates for consultations. This will force doctors to have their patients cover the gap so that their small businesses can survive.

The more obvious consequences that we can now look forward to are disastrously overloaded hospital emergency departments and an increase in long-term health problems. Any attempt at visionary policy has once again become the casualty of Mr Abbott’s vulgar ideology.

What deception this man is capable of and may it come back to bite him on that backside he treasures so much.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

The letter from Dr Jennifer Sterrett appalled me. In my view the information should have had front page priority. Our creepy government, having failed to get the $7 Medicare surcharge  past the senate, now dishes out this underhand imposition on doctors and patients. The consequences are too dreadful to contemplate.

Richard Waterfield Lane Cove

 “Back Door Tony” couldn’t argue his case for the GP Co-payment so now he is stealth bombing Medicare on January 19 and July 1 with a 54 to 67 per cent cut to the Medicare rebate for a GP consultation to “degrade” it via those dreaded regulations that he says he hates (but they are handy to bypass a pesky Senate). He has no shame. Hypocrisy thy name is Abbott.

 Don Smith Ashfield

Dr Jennifer Sterrett highlights some of the adverse consequences of the government’s change of the Medicare rebate for a GP consultation, designed to remove around $500 million out of general practice each year. This will result in most GPs, who currently bulk bill, having to  charge patients at least $35 if the consultation lasts less than 10 minutes. Patients will then receive a Medicare rebate of $16.95 after 19 January or $11.95 after 1 July. Supposing a GP continues to bulk bill for a consultation between 10 and 20 minutes, but not for a consultation less than 10 minutes?

The absurd situation now arises where it is in the patient’s financial (and possibly health) interest to make the consultation last for more than 10 minutes, but in the GP’s financial (and hopefully professional) interest to keep the consultation under 10 minutes.

When does a consultation finish? When the patient leaves the consulting room or the doctor leaves the patient in the consulting room? Will patients be required to clock on and off? One significant result of this cost saving by the government will be to lower the standard of health care by undermining the doctor-patient relationship, not least by expecting the GP to explain a complex and flawed change to the patient.

John Bradshaw Carlingford

Dr Jennifer Sterrett  informed us that the Medicare rebate for a GP consultation lasting 6-10 minutes will fall from $37.05 to $16.95, and then down to $11.95 from July 1. Where is the money going, or did I miss a Government announcement of a 70 per cent reduction in the Medicare Levy?

How is my GP going to survive?

How will the sick survive if they have to pay the difference?

Christo Curtis Beaconsfield

Dr Jennifer Sterrett’s expose of the new Medicare rebates for short consultations shows the government is effectively ‘defunding’ Medicare. A two-thirds reduction in the rebate from July 1 means we will all get a “price signal” of at least $25, and quite probably a lot more.

Fortunately, there is a solution, and Medibank Private has shown the way. In some Queensland clinics it offers fee-free consultations to its clients. I must ask my own health insurer if they will offer a similar service. Of course, I expect my premiums will rise, but that is the price we pay for the peace of mind that consultations remain “fee-free”, and I remain truly relaxed and comfortable. A bit like I was before Gough Whitlam introduced Medibank back in the 1970s, when those without medical insurance simply did not see a doctor until they went to hospital, as public patients.

Rob Davies Denistone

Source: The Age