GPs unite over rebate cuts

TASMANIAN doctors, angered by the Abbott government’s $5 rebate cuts, are threatening to lobby their patients against the federal health policy, which they say is inadequate.

Up to 50 doctors met in Hobart yesterday to discuss the impacts of the proposed $5 rebate cut and MBS indexation freeze on primary health.

It kicks off a series of national meetings that will result in federal AMA vice president Steve Parnis relaying GP concerns to federal Health Minister Sussan Ley.

AMA Tasmania president Tim Greenaway said the government’s mantra that health spending is out of control was incorrect, with a 9 per cent health spend sitting on par with other OECD countries.

He said the proposed rebate and the planned freeze on MBS indexation until 2018 was of serious concern.

“It is going to affect the viability of general practice,” he said.

“One of the real concerns is that people will avoid going to their doctor because of the out of pocket expenses, and we know if they avoid their routine health GP checks then chronic problems become acute and they are more likely to end up in the hospital.”

Mr Greenaway said savings could be made elsewhere, including cutting rebates for medical interventions that have no evidence of their benefits, and better use of e-records, to prevent duplication of medical imaging.

“85 per cent of Australians visit their GP at least once a year. If the government continues to attack GPs then each one can become a forum to discuss the federal government’s lack of health policy, or poor decision making, with every patient,” he said.

Northern GP Glenn Richardson said general practice provided cost effective health care to an ageing population and should have its funding increased, not cut.

“General practices are businesses. They have to pay staff, electricity, consumables, and these costs go up around 6 to 8 per cent a year,” he said.

“If it is left to GPs to continue to do the same job but for less, year after year, then they are going to up their fees to make up for that.”