‘Sting in the tail’

A compromise by the Federal Government amid the scrapping of its controversial $7 GP co-payment will still discourage the Valley’s poorest residents from visiting the doctor, according to a local healthcare clinic owner.

On Tuesday the Abbott Government announced it was ditching the plan and would instead pursue a $5 cut to the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate in a bid to gain legislative support from cross bench senators.

A cut to the Medicare rebate, paid to doctors for each patient, will force clinics to decide whether to pass on the extra cost to patients.

While the move to ditch the co-payment has been welcomed by the Australian Medical Association, it described the rebate cut measure as a ‘sting in the tail’ which would still cost patients.

Morwell Healthcare Centre owner Teddy Apostol said due to the lower socio-economic status of patients at the Morwell clinic, his clinic was more likely to feel the impact of a change in patient behaviour.

“Especially when a big portion of our clients have a cycle or a continuity of care, management of their conditions require them to come back once, twice or three times,” Mr Apostol said.

“In other more affluent areas this may not be such an issue, but at the Morwell clinic there will definitely be some patients who say ‘oh yeah’ and think twice about coming in.”

Mr Apostol said decreased patient turnover could mean a tightening of services at the Morwell clinic.

In May, when the $7 co-payment was initially announced as a measure in the Federal Budget, Mr Apostol told The Express there had been a “chilling” effect on patient visits which lingered for some months.

The $5 cut to the MBS rebate proposal, which still needs to be passed by the Federal senate, would apply to all non-concession card holders over 16 years old.