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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»

Proposed co-payment model a costly red tape nightmare for medical practices – Independent report

The AMA today released an independent report that shows the Government’s proposed co-payments for general practice, pathology, and diagnostic imaging would be a costly red tape nightmare for medical practices.

The report – The Red Tape Burden of the Proposed Medical Services Co-payment – details the results of modelling of the red tape (additional administrative) costs of the proposed medical services co-payment, with a particular focus on the costs that will be encountered by General Practices.

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said that the additional measure of cutting the Medicare patient rebate by $5 would dramatically cut funding for medical practices, and the cumulative effect could make some practices unviable.

The report shows that red tape and potential bad debts could totally erode the $2 of the co-payment the Government planned to pass on to GPs. Continue reading «Proposed co-payment model a costly red tape nightmare for medical practices – Independent report»

MRFF link to GP co-payment is a ‘poisoned chalice’ for medical researchers – AMA

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that the Government has handed Australia’s medical research sector a ‘poisoned chalice’ by making the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) dependant on funding from the pockets of the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable people in the community.

A/Prof Owler said the AMA supports the concept of the MRFF, but strongly opposes the tricky ploy to link its funding to the proposed GP co-payment and the $5 cut to the Medicare patient rebate as a funding source.

“To establish the MRFF, the Government introduced Budget cuts that affect general practice, pathology, and radiology services; hospital funding, GP training, and preventive health programs,” A/Prof Owler said. Continue reading «MRFF link to GP co-payment is a ‘poisoned chalice’ for medical researchers – AMA»

AMA Transcript – Concerns about the $7 GP co-payment pushing an extra 500,000 patients into emergency departments

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, 2GB Sydney, 8 October 2014

Subject: Concerns about the $7 GP co-payment pushing an extra 500,000 patients into emergency departments


STEVE PRICE: Front page of the Daily Telegraph today ran details of an analysis by New South Wales health that has been backed, according to the Herald report, by doctors and health groups that says if a $7 Medicare co-payment were introduced for GP visits that an extra 500,000 people would be pushed into emergency departments at public hospitals. I found that difficult to understand how you could calculate that, and I am a sort of person who practically thinks about these things.

If you have an issue where you need to go to your GP and you’re going to be charged an extra $7, are you going to not go to your GP and instead go and sit for hours in an emergency department in a public hospital. And wouldn’t a simple way to sort this out if the $7 goes ahead to put the $7 payment into emergency as well for people who present for afflictions that could be catered for by a GP? But let’s go to the top, talk to the Australian Medical Association. Their federal president is Associate Professor Brian Owler. Thank you for staying up to talk to us tonight, Brian.

BRIAN OWLER: It’s a pleasure, Steve.

STEVE PRICE: Is this an exaggeration?

BRIAN OWLER: Well, I’m not sure how they have actually come to the calculations but this is a document that apparently has come from the Department of Health in New South Wales itself, so it’s not a document that’s been designed to exaggerate something. It’s something that’s been a piece of information that’s been delivered to the New South Wales Government.

And when we look at other jurisdictions some of them have done similar modelling. The figures do vary around the country but the bottom line is we know that if you are going to introduce a $7 GP co-payment people are going to go to emergency departments instead of the general practice. Continue reading «AMA Transcript – Concerns about the GP co-payment pushing an extra 500,000 patients into emergency departments»

Memo to Senate crossbenchers: the AMA does not support the Government’s GP co-payment model

Amid reports of a possible Budget retreat by the Government, the AMA reiterates that it strongly opposes the Government’s proposed co-payment model for GP, pathology, and radiology services, and the planned $5 cut to the Medicare patient rebate.

AMA Vice President, Dr Stephen Parnis, said today that the AMA is concerned that its position is being misrepresented by the Government in its dealings with the Senate crossbenchers.

“We want to send a clear message to the crossbenchers that the AMA has been a leading critic of the Government’s co-payment model since Budget night,” Dr Parnis said. Continue reading «Memo to Senate crossbenchers: the AMA does not support the Government’s GP co-payment model»

Record Spending Slowdown Shows Health Not Budget Problem

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler has called on the Federal Government to immediately drop plans to slash $5 from the Medicare rebate following the release of figures showing claims that health spending is growing unsustainably are baseless.

“The Abbott Government has justified its extreme health Budget measures on the basis that health spending is out of control. Clearly it is not,” A/Prof Owler said.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released analysis showing total national spending on health grew by a record low 1.5 per cent in real terms in 2012-13, underpinned by a big 2.4 per cent fall in Federal Government funding. Health’s share of the Commonwealth Budget has fallen in the last seven years from more than 18 per cent to 16.1 per cent. Continue reading «Record Spending Slowdown Shows Health Not Budget Problem»

AMA model protects vulnerable patients from co-payment pain

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, today called on the Government to dump its seriously flawed GP co-payments proposal and adopt the AMA model, which exempts the most vulnerable patients from extra cost burdens for their health care.

A/Prof Owler said the AMA has vigorously opposed the Government’s proposal since Budget night and has worked to produce an alternative model that is fairer and more equitable.

“The AMA has produced a health policy, not an economic policy,” A/Prof Owler said. Continue reading «AMA model protects vulnerable patients from co-payment pain»

AMA Transcript – AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, AMA Media Conference, 21 August 2014

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, AMA Media Conference, 21 August 2014

Subject: AMA alternative GP co-payment model


BRIAN OWLER: Well thank you everyone, and thank you for coming to the AMA. I have with me today Dr Brian Morton, who is the chair of AMA CGP, that’s the Council of General Practice. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today regarding the AMA’s GP co-payment alternative plan. The AMA’s put a lot of work, and a lot of thinking into our proposal. We have discussed at length internally, and this morning I shared it with other GP groups. We’ve also spent time of course discussing it with the Government and the Department of Health. I just want to point out we have put in the hard policy work and discussion with other stakeholders before going public with our model, and wish the Government had taken a similar approach with their model in the past.

Continue reading «AMA Transcript – AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, AMA Media Conference, 21 August 2014»

The Guardian: AMA proposals for GP co-payment a ‘windfall for doctors’, government says

The Guardian Reports:

“The Australian Medical Association’s proposed overhaul of the government’s GP co-payment would produce a windfall for doctors and “wipe out” 97% of the $3.5bn budgeted savings, the government has warned.

“The AMA called on the government to cut the proposed $7 co-payment for GP visits to $6.15, with blanket exemptions for concession card holders and patients under 16. The government would pay the amount for those groups.”

Read more at the Guardian’s website.

AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, Radio 4BC Brisbane, 1 August 2014

Transcript: AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, Radio 4BC Brisbane, 1 August 2014

Subject: GP co-payment

 


PATRICK CONDREN: But first, the future of the Abbott Government’s proposed $7 GP co-payment. Health Minister last night met with AMA president, A/Prof Brian Owler, who is with us now. Dr Owler, good morning. Thanks for your time this morning.

BRIAN OWLER: It’s a pleasure, Patrick.

PATRICK CONDREN: What did you take from your meeting with Peter Dutton last night?

BRIAN OWLER: Look, it was a positive meeting. We met for a couple of hours and discussed not only the co-payment but a range of other issues. And we had a good hearing of our thoughts around an alternative model, and we’ve asked the Government to consider that, and they’ve given an undertaking to go back and think about the model and the proposal that we put forward.

And then I expect there’ll be more discussion to come in the near future. Continue reading «AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, Radio 4BC Brisbane, 1 August 2014»

Constructive discussions on co-payments

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that he had a constructive meeting last night with Health Minister, Peter Dutton, to discuss the AMA’s alternative plan to address concerns with the Government’s proposed co-payments for general practice, radiology, and pathology services.

A/Prof Owler said the AMA had been a strong critic of the Government’s co-payment plan since it was announced in the May Budget, and has explained its concerns face-to-face with the Prime Minister, the Health Minister, and the Treasurer in recent weeks.

“The AMA has highlighted the harmful impact of the Government’s proposed co-payments on the elderly, the chronically ill, the poor, and Indigenous Australians,” A/Prof Owler said. Continue reading «Constructive discussions on co-payments»

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Parliament House Doorstop, 29 July 2014

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Parliament House Doorstop, 29 July 2014

Subject: Out-of-pocket costs for healthcare

 


BRIAN OWLER: Well, thank you everyone, as you know, I’ve just been addressing the Senate inquiry in relation to out-of-pocket expenses. There was a lot of interest, obviously, in the co-payment issue, particularly around the GP co-payments and the AMA was happy to provide a discussion around its submission.

As people will be aware, the AMA cannot support the Government’s current co-payment proposal because of several issues mainly to do with the issues for vulnerable patients, those that really can’t afford to pay the co-payment, the issues to do with the viability of some medical practices, not just in general practice, but also in radiology or diagnostic imaging and because it goes against the grain of health policy, which should be to encourage people to see their GP for preventative healthcare and chronic disease management. Continue reading «AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, Parliament House Doorstop, 29 July 2014»

Proposed GP co-payment would deter patients from seeing their family doctor

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that the GP co-payment model that the Government released in the May Budget would deter patients from seeing their family doctor.

A/Prof Owler said putting barriers between sick people and much-needed care and advice would only lead to much sicker patients and higher costs to the health system.

“The AMA cannot support the Government’s current co-payment proposals for general practice, pathology, and radiology – and I have said that in person to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Health Minister,” A/Prof Owler said. Continue reading «Proposed GP co-payment would deter patients from seeing their family doctor»

AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, National Press Club Speech

SPEECH TO THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB

CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 2014

AMA PRESIDENT A/PROF BRIAN OWLER

**Check Against Delivery

The Australian Health Care System

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

Thank you to the National Press Club for giving me the opportunity to talk about health today.

I would like to acknowledge two past AMA Presidents here today – Dr Steve Hambleton and Dr Mukesh Haikerwal.

I would also like to acknowledge the Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice – Dr Brian Morton.

I want to take the opportunity to express, on behalf of the AMA, our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of all those who tragically died on flight MH17.

There were a number of doctors aboard that flight, along with medical researchers and activists, many of whom were due to attend the international AIDS Conference in Melbourne.

Their loss, and indeed the loss all those who died so unnecessarily, causes us all deep sadness.

This week is an important week in the AMA calendar. It is, of course, AMA Family Doctor Week. It’s an event that the AMA has been running for more than 20 years.

It is a week when we pay tribute to the important work – often taken for granted – that is carried out by doctors in local communities around Australia every day.

The Family Doctor Week theme is Your Family Doctor – Keeping You Healthy. It’s a particularly pertinent title this year.

What I am going to talk about today is the Australian Health Care system – its performance, sustainability, affordability, and the central role of the family doctor in its success. Continue reading «AMA President A/Prof Brian Owler, National Press Club Speech»

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, National Press Club Q & A, 23 July 2014

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, National Press Club Q & A, 23 July 2014

Subject: Ensuring the sustainability of the health system

 


LAURIE WILSON: Thank you very much, Professor Owler. Don’t sit down for too long. It’s time for questions, and our first one today is from Dan Harrison.

QUESTION: G’day, Dr Owler. Dan Harrison from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Thanks very much for your speech. I’d like to ask you a question slightly from left field about something that you didn’t talk about in your speech. What do you think of the medicinal potential of cannabis? Do you think it should be made legally available more widely than it is currently, and if so, how would you achieve that?

BRIAN OWLER: Yeah look, it’s obviously a very topical area at the moment, and the AMA’s position about medicinal cannabis is that we recognise that it does have some therapeutic potential. But that needs to be assessed properly in a regulated way so that we actually get the best outcomes for patients.

Now, part of it needs to be that we take the emotion out of the debate from both those that are for and those that are against. I mean, I take the analogy of other medicines that we use, morphine, for instance. Now, morphine – we wouldn’t think of not using morphine, but we use it for anaesthesia and for pain relief every day in our hospitals. Yes, it can be abused and it has harmful effects if it’s used the wrong way. Continue reading «AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, National Press Club Q & A, 23 July 2014»

SMH: Government’s $7 GP fee will only do themselves harm: AMA president Brian Owler

The worst possible outcome for the Abbott government would be if its proposal for a $7 Medicare fee actually became law, Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler says.

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Associate Professor Owler said public opinion was clearly against the proposal, announced in the May budget, for a $7 fee for GP visits, pathology services such as blood tests and diagnostic imaging services such as X-rays.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald website.

AFR: Tony Abbott to ‘consider alternatives’ to $7 fee for GP visits

The Australian Financial Review Reports:

“The first signs have emerged that the Abbott government may make concessions on its controversial $7 Medicare co-payment, with the Australian Medical Association reporting Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was ­prepared to look at alternative models.

“Mr Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton met AMA federal ­president Brian Owler in Canberra on Tuesday after the doctors’ body expressed trenchant opposition to the $7 payment on GP visits, as well as ancillary services such as pathology and diagnostic imaging.”

Read more at the Financial Review’s website.

SMH: AMA wants GP fee gone

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“The Australian Medical Association has demanded Tony Abbott scrap his proposed $7 GP fee, accusing the Coalition of treating healthcare as ”an ideological toy”.

In an article published by Fairfax Media on Thursday, AMA president Brian Owler branded the proposed fee ”unfair and unnecessary” and said it deserved to be voted down in the Senate.”

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Brian Owler opinion piece in the SMH

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, wrote in his Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece:

“The health measures in the federal budget are almost universally opposed by the people who provide health services in Australia. The Australian Medical Association is at the forefront of this opposition.

“The message is clear: the measures add up to bad health policy. The health of Australians is too important for healthcare to be an ideological toy.”

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald website.