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AMA Welcomes a victory for patients

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to ditch the $20 Medicare rebate cut for GP consultations lasting less than 10 minutes as a victory for patients.

A/Prof Owler said today’s announcement by Health Minister Sussan Ley would be a huge relief for doctors and patients around the country who had been facing a $20 cut to the Medicare rebate Level B GP consultations from next Monday.

“Clearly, common sense has prevailed,” he said.

“No issue in recent memory has provoked the anger among doctors and patients that this proposed rebate cut has,” the AMA President said. “The AMA and other doctors groups have been inundated with messages from doctors and patients around the country outraged by the plan, which was always about the Budget bottom line rather than health policy.

“It is heartening to see that the Government has listened, and has decided to dump what was always a very flawed idea.

“I would like to congratulate Ms Ley on her decision to take the change off the table, and welcome her commitment to consultation.

“The AMA is ready to work with the Government on ways to improve the health system, including improving the support for primary care.”

While the Government has withdrawn its changes to the Level B consultation, other changes, including a $5 cut to Medicare rebates for general patients from 1 July and a freeze on Medicare rebate indexation through to mid-2018, remain in place, and A/Prof Owler said these remained a serious concern for doctors and the AMA.

The AMA President said meetings of doctors would be held in the capital cities early next month to help inform the AMA’s position in discussions with the Government on sensible health policy.

Government Rebate Cut Undermines Quality Care

AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler has emphatically rejected Federal Government claims that a $20 cut to Medicare rebates for shorter GP consultations due to come into effect next Monday will boost quality care.

In an interview on radio 3AW this morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the AMA had raised concerns about six-minute medicine and, by slashing the rebate for Level B GP consultations lasting less than 10 minutes, the Government was encouraging doctors to spend more time with their patients. Continue reading «Government Rebate Cut Undermines Quality Care»

SMH: New $20 GP fee under fire: Senators could wind back government changes

A $20 cut in the rebates paid to doctors for consultations that are 10 minutes or less faces the axe, with three crossbench senators indicating they will vote to scrap the government’s changes. If Labor joins the Greens in also opposing the rebate cut, just one more crossbencher would be needed to unwind the policy when the Senate resumes in February.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Age: New $20 GP fee: Abbott government’s health charge changes explained

What is this new $20 GP fee all about?

As part of a suite of health funding cuts announced by the Abbott government last year, the Medicare rebate for most consultations lasting up to 10 minutes is dropping from $37.05 to $16.95 starting January 19. If your doctor bulk bills (does not charge you anything), they will receive $20.05 less for such a consultation. If your doctor charges a private fee, you will receive $20.05 less back from Medicare, meaning your “out of pocket” or “gap fee” will increase by $20.05.

Read more at The Age.

Britain’s hospital crisis could happen here

AMA Vice President, Dr Stephen Parnis, has warned the crisis currently gripping the British health system, where thousands of patients are being forced to wait up to 12 hours for emergency care and hospitals are urging people with non-life threatening illnesses to stay away, could strike here unless the Federal Government reverses course and ends its attack on general practice.

Britain’s National Health Service has been plunged into crisis as patients swamp emergency departments, causing blow-outs in waiting times and forcing hospitals around the country to declare major incidents, cancel operations, call in extra staff and ration access to care.

Continue reading «Britain’s hospital crisis could happen here»

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, doorstop Sydney 8 January 2015

BRIAN OWLER: Well, thank you for coming out. What I was going to talk about today was the changes to the GP rebates that come into effect on 19 January. We’ve had a lot of feedback from GPs about their unhappiness, their anger, over the proposed changes which are coming in on 19 January. These changes haven’t been debated by Parliament, many people are unaware of the changes, and it’s a terrible time of year to institute such far-reaching changes to general practice.

 Essentially, the changes have to do with the Level A and Level B rebates, which for most people doesn’t mean very much. But what it means for patients at the end of the day is that GPs will be receiving less of a rebate, and patients that are privately billed will also be receiving less back from the Government. It will mean more money out of people’s pockets each time they go and see the GP, and these changes are insulting to GPs, many of whom are experienced and can provide good quality care within eight or nine minutes.

Continue reading «AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, doorstop Sydney 8 January 2015»

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, ABC Radio Canberra interview 7 January 2015

LOUISE MAHER: The Federal Government scrapped its plan for a $7 Medicare co-payment before Christmas but doctors’ fees are set to rise due to other changes that were perhaps more quietly announced. It includes reducing the rebate for GP consultations that are under ten minutes by $20 and that’s a measure that’s due to come into effect on 19 January. To explain what this and other changes are going to mean we’re joined now by Brian Owler who’s the national President of the AMA. Thanks for being with us on 666 Breakfast.

BRIAN OWLER: It’s a pleasure Louise.

LOUISE MAHER: What is going to be the effect of this reduction in the rebate for short consultations?

BRIAN OWLER: So the effect is not really a rise in doctors’ fees, what the effect is, is actually that patients will be having to pay more out of pocket because up until now the consultations that have been based on the consecutive consultations. So a level A rebate was a simple matter, level B required history, an exam and a diagnosis and treatment usually. And now they’ve moved to a time-based system so it means that for 25 per cent of consultations that take the ten minutes, the fees for that or the rebate for that will be reduced from $37.05 to $16.95 and… Continue reading «AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, ABC Radio Canberra interview 7 January 2015»

Govt changes provoke doctor fury

The Federal Government has set itself on a collision course with the medical profession over radical changes to the Medicare system that the AMA warns will result in much higher fees for patients and reduced access to care.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said the Government’s unilateral move to slash the rebate for GP consultations lasting less than 10 minutes, cut Medicare rebates by $5, and extend the indexation freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule through to mid-2018, had provoked the angriest response seen from the profession in many years.

A/Professor Owler said the three changes amounted to an attack on all medical practitioners that would ultimately result in higher charges for patients and reduced access to quality care.

“This is a triple blow that will hit general practice like a wrecking ball,” the AMA President said. “Over the past week, the AMA went out to its members and asked what they thought of the new co-payment proposal. What we received back were some of the angriest emails the AMA has received over any issue in a long time.

“The AMA will do all it can to stop these destructive changes.”

Continue reading «Govt changes provoke doctor fury»

End of bulk billing for millions

Millions of patients may no longer be bulk billed and will instead face up-front charges of up to $45 or even more to see their family doctor as a result of the Federal Government’s radical overhaul of medical practice funding, the AMA and other medical groups have warned.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said the Government’s move to slash the rebate for GP consultations of less than 10 minutes, to freeze indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule through to 2018, and to slash the rebate for non-concession card holders by $5, would make it impossible for many practices to continue to bulk bill patients.

Continue reading «End of bulk billing for millions»

AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler – Vow to fight co-payment

The AMA does not support measures that take billions of dollars out of general practice, undermine the viability of individual practices, and ultimately disadvantage our patients.

The AMA is strongly opposed to all three measures in the Government’s package that attack general practice, these being:

  • the $5 cut to Medicare patient rebates for general patients;
  • the non-indexation of rebates until July 2018; and
  • the introduction of time-based changes to level B  consultations.

brian-conference

Watch the video at the AMA website.

AMA Doorstop Transcript – GP co-payment – President A/Prof Brian Owler

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra,

18 December 2014

Subject: GP co-payment

BRIAN OWLER: Alright, well thank you everyone for coming out this morning. I want to talk about two issues on behalf of the AMA. The first one is obviously around the new GP co-payment proposal, and the second thing I wanted to talk about was road safety over the Christmas period.

First of all, in terms of the new co-payment proposal. The AMA was pleased that its efforts in terms of advocating for vulnerable patients, carving out those concession card holders and under 16s from the co-payment proposal was successful. But what we are not pleased about are some of the other measures that have been introduced as part of this proposal without any consultation with the profession.

Continue reading «AMA Doorstop Transcript – GP co-payment – President A/Prof Brian Owler»

ABC PM: ‘Wrecking ball’ to general practice: AMA ramps up criticism of Medicare rebate cuts

The Australian Medical Association is ramping up its criticism of the Federal Government’s proposed GP co-payment. 

So far it’s welcomed the decision to exempt vulnerable patients including pensioners, veterans, children, aged care residents and concession card holders from the proposed $5 fee.

But it’s criticised the freeze on the indexation of Medicare rebates and the so-called “discretionary” fee GPs could charge all other patients.

Read more at the ABC website.

The Guardian: It gets harder to provide quality care each year. The GP co-payment could sink my practice

My general practice is like the TV show Cheers: a place where everybody knows your name. My reception and nursing staff know the quirks of the majority our patients. We know Mrs Jones will need a taxi to take her to her appointment. It’s easier for our staff to book Mr Verona’s high resolution thoracic CT scan for him, because of his thick accent and poor hearing. I am grateful for having such good staff, pay them above the award and try to provide them with a yearly pay rise. Now I’m unsure if I can afford to keep them.

Read more at The Guardian.

The Government’s co-payment model must be scrapped

In the May Budget, the Government announced that it would cut Medicare rebates by $5 for GP, pathology, and diagnostic imaging services, and cut back bulk billing incentives.

The Government also announced that it would apply a $7 co-payment to these services.

This policy was developed without any input from the medical profession. The AMA was not consulted on the detail of this policy.

On Budget night, the AMA sent a clear message to the Government – we cannot support a co-payment model that hurts the most vulnerable patients in the community.

We have campaigned against the Government’s co-payment model ever since.

The AMA is not opposed to all co-payments. We believe that people who have the capacity to contribute to the cost of their care should do so. Co-payments already exist. Around 20 per cent of GP visits are currently privately billed and the patient makes a contribution to the cost of their care.

But the AMA cannot support a co-payment model that hurts the poor, the elderly, the chronically ill, and Indigenous Australians the hardest.

We cannot support a co-payment model that further disadvantages the most disadvantaged.

We cannot support a co-payment that deters people from seeing their doctor for vital health care services and advice.

We cannot support a co-payment that is virtually impossible to implement, especially for pathology and diagnostic imaging providers.

We cannot support a co-payment that creates a bureaucratic red tape nightmare for medical practices.

The Government’s co-payment model does all these things. It must be stopped.

It is an unfair attack on funding for essential frontline health services with inadequate protection for disadvantaged patients.

If people delay accessing health care, they will get sicker and need more expensive interventions and hospital stays – driving up the costs of our health care system.

The AMA and others have repeatedly raised serious concerns, but the Government has refused to listen. It has refused to engage. It has refused to negotiate.

It is important to know that the AMA also supports the concept of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), but we do not support it being partially funded by co-payments paid by vulnerable patients.

The $7 co-payment and Medicare cut only represent a quarter of the $20 billion to be accumulated by 2020.

Stopping the Government’s co-payment plan doesn’t mean that MRFF should be stopped as well. The MRFF can be established with the savings already made. It may mean that the Fund takes two more years to accumulate $20 billion, or it could be a still substantial $15 billion Fund – but there would still be a Fund without the co-payment.

The AMA has set this website up so that you can be part of our campaign against the Government’s proposals.

By clicking on the link for your State/Territory, you can access a web form that allows you to email your local member to voice your concerns.

A copy of your email will also be sent to the Senate representatives for your State/Territory.

A copy of your email will also be sent to the Prime Minister, the Health Minister, and the Treasurer.

The AMA is of the strong view that additional investment in primary care, especially general practice, is at the core of the sustainability of our health system.

General practice must be funded and resourced to address the health needs of an ageing population, more and more patients with multiple chronic conditions, and greater demand for preventive health education and advice.

The Government’s co-payment model is not the answer. Together, we must stop it.

Yours sincerely

 

A/Prof Brian Owler
President

AMA Transcript – GP co-payment

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Radio National, 28 November 2014

Subject: GP co-payment

FRAN KELLY: Laura and Michelle were just discussing the confusion that reigned yesterday around the Federal Government’s Budget policy to charge a $7 co-payment for a visit to the GP. So, beyond that confusion, what is actually happening, is there a change afoot? Brian Owler is the President of the AMA. Yesterday he accused the Health Minister Peter Dutton of being petulant in his refusal to dump the policy. Brian Owler, welcome to RN Breakfast.

BRIAN OWLER: Thanks, Fran.

FRAN KELLY: The Government is not being at all clear about how it’s going to impose a price signal, but it does remain committed to a price signal, that’s clear, and the Health Minister said yesterday there are now different options being considered. Do you know what these options are, and are they options you would be happy with?

BRIAN OWLER: Well, I don’t think he knows what the options are because yesterday we had, well during the week, we’ve had a number of changes. There’s been this discussion that if they can’t get it through the Senate that they turn to regulation to actually cut the fee schedule but that’s a disallowable instrument in Parliament, so the Senate would be able to object to that and, you know, just trying to change the fee to essentially save the 3.5 billion, I mean they’re losing sight of all of the issues that have been discussed over the past six months. I mean, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have acknowledged that there are issues to do with residential aged care, there are issues to do with Indigenous health, mental health, with looking after children and immunisation, and so just trying to ram something through and forgetting all of those issues, I think he is being petulant because they’re – it’s “I must get this policy through at all costs and I don’t care what the consequences are.” Continue reading «AMA Transcript – GP co-payment»

AMA Transcript – $7 GP co-payment

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, ABC News 24, 27 November 2014

Subject: $7 GP co-payment


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The Australian Medical Association has always been opposed to the policy. Its national President Brian Owler is in Canberra and joins us now. Thank you for joining us.

BRIAN OWLER: It is a pleasure. Good morning.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Is this a win for AMA?

BRIAN OWLER: I think it’s a win for health policy.  I think it’s a win for patients because the Government’s proposal did affect vulnerable patients in our community and that’s one of the reasons the AMA is so opposed to it.

The AMA doesn’t oppose co-payments, we already have them in our health system, but only for those who can afford to pay them. We were asked to put up an alternative policy, which we did, and unfortunately the Government rejected that.

I think it is good to have this off the table so that now we can have a debate and a discussion about how we tackle the problems of chronic disease management, prevention and invest in general practice. Continue reading «AMA Transcript – GP co-payment»

Time to Dump Unfair Co-payment Proposals

AMA President, A/Prof Owler, has welcomed the admission today from Health Minister, Peter Dutton, that the Government would not introduce its unfair co-payment proposals or its plan to cut $5 from the Medicare patient rebate by regulation, if it fails to get its legislation through the Parliament.

A/Prof Owler said that mounting Senate opposition to the co-payments provides the Government with the perfect opportunity to give the Australian people an early Christmas present by dumping the flawed policy altogether.

“The Minister’s comments today highlight the dual impacts of the Government’s Budget measures for health,” A/Prof Owler said. Continue reading «Time to Dump Unfair Co-payment Proposals»