Budget 2014: No escape from GP fee

Budget 2014: Students feel squeeze tightening

Whether your doctor bulk bills or you pay them and claim a rebate through Medicare, you won't escape the federal government's co-payment scheme.

Tuesday night's budget included a co-payment on doctor's visits, which comes into effect in July next year and is designed to rein in the expense of Medicare.

According to the budget papers, from 2007-08 to 2012-13, Medicare spending increased from just over $13 billion to more than $18.5 billion.

The Commission of Audit floated a $15 co-payment charge but Treasurer Joe Hockey opted for a $7 charge for those visiting bulk-billing doctors.

But those who pay up front won't escape a co-payment fee. From July next year, these people will get $5 less in their Medicare rebate.

However a spokesman for Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton said there should be no reason for a doctor to raise their fees because of the co-payment.

Commonwealth concession card holders and children under 16 will have the $7 fee waived after making 10 visits in a calendar year.

The budget also opens the way for co-payments for visits to hospital emergency rooms.

"States and territories will be permitted to charge a small patient contribution for GP-type attendances at public hospital emergency departments," the budget papers said.

On Wednesday NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance said he was concerned the $7 GP fee would see more people going to emergency rooms.

"We can't get queues a mile long in emergency departments, because that's going to be expensive and that's not an efficient way to run any health system," he said.

"So we do need to consider that in detail."

Late of Wednesday, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said this would not happen in this state.

"The NSW government will not implement a co-payment for patients accessing our emergency departments," Mrs Skinner said.

"There will be no cuts to hospital services. We will continue our record investments in the NSW public health system."

Throsby MP and opposition assistant spokesman for health Stephen Jones condemned the $7 co-payment charge.

"In the Illawarra, bulk-billing rates are over 86 per cent. Tony Abbott's GP tax could cost local families over $13.4 million in the first year alone," he said.


Discuss "Budget 2014: No escape from GP fee"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.