Crack down on ‘cowboy’ doctors in Medicare overhaul, MP says

By political reporter Andrew Greene

A Coalition backbencher who once worked as a GP is calling for a crackdown on “cowboy” doctors in any government push to overhaul Medicare.

Andrew Laming, who is still a qualified eye specialist, has also suggested financial rewards for high-performing doctors, and taken a swipe at his government’s recent Medicare reform efforts.

“At the moment we don’t have speed limits on doctors,” Dr Laming told AM.

“I think that if you’re seeing more than 10 patients per hour you can’t be delivering quality medicine, doesn’t matter how smart you are.

“So we do need to be looking at ways to pull the cowboys up. It’s been a difficult discussion that’s never really been had,” the Queensland Liberal MP said.

Dr Laming believes any health reform needs to reward quality medicine, giving successful doctors financial incentives through the Medicare system.

“And that means identifying some targets for patients, rewarding GPs that hit them and of course no rewards for those that don’t.

“It’s a hard world out there but we have to be looking after people with chronic disease and making sure that they’re in the hands of the best possible providers,” he said.

New Health Minister Sussan Ley will this week begin consultations with key groups in the sector as she works on the Government’s third attempt to overhaul Medicare.

Last week, she announced the Government had dumped plans to cut the rebate for short GP visits by $20, amid a fierce political backlash and stiff opposition from doctors.

Ms Ley said the Government remained committed to a GP co-payment as a price signal in the health system.

“It is still Government policy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not keen to hear people’s views about it,” she told ABC News Breakfast.

Dr Laming expressed disappointment with how his senior colleagues have handled the Medicare debate so far.

“All power to Sussan Ley – she’ll be consulting widely,” he said.

“There’s plenty of good people who can come up with some good ideas, but as I’ve said, 2014 was not a good year in Medicare reform and we need to make sure that the shadows of 2014 don’t affect this consultation process.”