Co-payment ‘dead and buried’

Health practitioners Australia-wide and in the Latrobe Valley are rejoicing over the scrapping of the Federal Government’s GP co-payment plan.

Under the Federal Government’s original budget plan, which included the co-payment, bulk-billed patients would have been charged $7 to see a doctor.

After much discussion in the senate in December, the co-payment was reduced to a $5 optional payment which would only be charged at the doctor’s discretion.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday announced the plan was now “dead, buried and cremated” after community members and doctors alike condemned the idea.

Owner of St Luke’s Medical Centre in Traralgon and the Healthcare Centre in Morwell, Teddy Apostol told The Express he was happy to hear of the plan’s dismissal.

“Of course from a health point of view of our clients, they’ll be happier and won’t hesitate to look after their health,” Mr Apostol said.

Following initial budget announcements surrounding the prospective co-payment, Mr Apostol’s clinics experienced declines in patient consultation bookings.

Mr Apostol believes this was due to patients assuming the payment scheme had already been implemented.

He said now the plan was scrapped, health field worker concerns over job security resulting from loss of business could now be alleviated.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Dennis Pashen said the organisation welcomed the decision to axe the co-payment.

“Essentially rural doctors welcome the fact the government has listened to our concerns about that and we’re still discussing the issues around indexation and about the GP training programs,” Dr Pashen said.

He said implementation of the co-payment and its impacts on running a practice would have made the prospect of being a rural GP far less attractive to young doctors.

“What we don’t want to do is force rural practices into charging large gap payments to meet their business,” Dr Pashen said.

“If you make the business model less attractive there are areas elsewhere that pay a lot better.”