Turnbull Government set to unwind Medicare rebate freeze

The Turnbull Government appears set to unwind the Medicare rebate freeze.

Turnbull Government set to unwind Medicare rebate freeze

In a move that could cost more than $3 billion, the Turnbull Government appears set to unwind the Medicare rebate freeze in the May Budget.

The 'temporary' Medicare rebate freeze was implemented by the Federal Labor Government in 2013, in an attempt to save the budget $664 million.

The freeze has meant that GPs and other medical specialists have been reimbursed the same amount for delivering health services in 2017 as they were in 2014, while wages, and other costs such as medical products, utilities and the overheads of running a medical practice have all increased.

The new Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed yesterday that he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will review the rebate.

"The Prime Minister has said and I have said that is an item that we would be willing to review and we are willing to review subject to a very clear set of reforms that will help make the system stronger and better," said Mr Hunt.

Mr Hunt appears to be considering a deal with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to try to minimise the budget cost of unwinding the freeze.

The unfreezing of the Medicare rebate is being seen as an attempt by the Coalition to demonstrate its support for Medicare. The Coalition believe the 'Mediscare' campaign cost it several seats at the last election. It hopes that, by demonstrating support for Medicare, it will minimise future political damage.

What do you think? Have you felt the impact of the current freeze through the quality of the medical services you have been receiving from your GP or specialist? Will the Federal Government fully unwind the Medicare rebate freeze? Is it the right decision? What “reforms” do you expect the government to extract in return?

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    COMMENTS

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    Janus
    23rd Feb 2017
    10:40am
    What it means is that GP who can't or don't bulk bill, could or might do so if the rate was increased.

    Many of us oldies don't go to the doctor because it costs. Not just the fees but the numerous tests, the travel and the medications that are assumed "necessary".

    So many people these days have poor teeth because they can't afford the dentist. When wil that be rectified??? Not by this Govt, that's for sure.
    Rae
    23rd Feb 2017
    1:29pm
    Teeth have always been an individual cost and I put away $10 a year which has been ample to cover check up and clean twice a year and the odd refilling. The dentist makes sure you floss etc by nagging each half year. Worth the cost of a coffee and cake which I don't indulge in.
    Patriot
    23rd Feb 2017
    2:00pm
    Rae,
    Either your dentist is "Awfully Cheap (need his address & hope he's close) " OR you're putting away $10.00 per week may be!?!?!?
    Rae
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:00pm
    Sorry Patriot. Goos Call it is $10 a week. Around $500 a year and that is often accumulating.
    Rae
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:01pm
    Good Call I meant doh!!!
    Patriot
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:40pm
    Rae,
    Sorry for being "Cheeky"!
    Couldn't let it go though

    I personally don't have the problem with fillings as they're "All plastic", but your idea is a good one!
    Blossom
    24th Feb 2017
    1:16pm
    Rae,
    A check-up and one filling per 6 months might come to $400.00
    If you put aside $10.00 a week you are saving $520.00 for dental expenses. If you are paying more than that you are having extra work done.

    23rd Feb 2017
    10:45am
    Any government which introduces a "temporary" change to anything is invariably lying. NSW introduced a "temporary" fishing licence when Carr was Premier and it's still there. Who doesn't remember the 3X3 levy on fuel, 3¢ extra tax on fuel for 3 years, introduced by Greiner. It was introduced in 1989 and found invalid by the Courts in 1997. As regards the Medicare freeze, the Coalition would of course maintain the freeze as it could always blame Labor for implementing it. Always assume that anything that a politician says is "temporary" will be there for a long, long time.
    Sundays
    23rd Feb 2017
    11:19am
    It's time to lift the freeze. Our local practice did not replace a staff member and we all wait a little longer. For the most 'popular' doctors it can be up to two weeks for non urgent appointment. This is as a direct result of less income. Three years long enough! Why is s everyone being asked to take a pay cut except politicians. Today Fair Work Australia meet to decide whether to cut/reduce Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers
    Rosret
    23rd Feb 2017
    11:55am
    I disagree Sundays. The popular doctors are scarce and hence the demand. We need to stop looking at the 99.9% ATAR scores and get doctors that want to be doctors because they like medicine not because it awards them a high salary.
    Then lets see who wants to be a doctor.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:04pm
    Correct, Rosret - admission to Medicine should be solely on ability and dedication, not on pursuit of money. I've long said Medicine is a calling, not a job, same as Law - in either of which cases I personally would be working forever, for as long as I could, and not for cash.
    Sundays
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:44pm
    Yes and no. You have a point re doctors should want to be doctors, but they are entitled to be paid properly. The doctor who owns the practice told me that the Govt decision to keep the freeze was affecting their wages.
    Rae
    23rd Feb 2017
    1:35pm
    Yes my lovely doctor started work when I did and is very close to retiring. She only works half a day now and two days at the Skin Cancer Clinic. I have always paid a hefty gap and as I'm well I haven't minded.

    If I became ill it would be different because I get no government rebates so pay full costs. I don't think I could afford it so I'd have to shop around for the best service/deal outcome.

    I'm glad the government has realised medicare is important to people and also a good way to get funds flowing into a weakening economy.
    Rosret
    23rd Feb 2017
    11:51am
    They needed to put a freeze on the rebate as Doctors are earning too much more than the rest of the community and the gap between our salary streams is getting too large.
    The idea that one person is soooo much more valuable than another needs to be curtailed. When doctors gets a 5% increase its a huge amount compared to a nurse getting a 5% increase.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:05pm
    Didn't work - the AMA didn't come to heel. I find the fees some charge unconscionable, and it is plain their interest is not in the interest of their patients.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:18pm
    BTW - all my specialists and such are top people - all bulk bill. I get it all for free, but hey.... glad I don't have to pay for 'private' health care.
    Sundays
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:47pm
    Not all doctors are the same. You can't equate the pay of a GP, with that of a specialist. I know tradesmen who get more than GPs. No freeze for them
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:00pm
    No freeze on politicians, either.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    12:01pm
    Roll over, Beethoven, and give Ol' Turnbull the blues....

    My old GP stopped bulk billing because of the freeze - I doubt he'll go back ..... once accustomed to the higher level of income, no way, Jose`.

    That is why things of this nature are cunning and persistent long after they're finished, just like cancer. I've long cited the absolute effect of affirmative action, a purely discriminatory issue with no time limit on it - and which is now the 'way it always will be'... once established with its tentacles right through the organism, only massive excision can save the patient and return him to normal.

    In another light, maybe it's coming up to time to open the pork barrels or at the very least find where they are stored in the warehouse, which means there may be an election on the horizon. Time to dust off the Pensioner Log Of Claims, and hit 'em hard and low....
    Sundays
    23rd Feb 2017
    1:09pm
    What are you saying Trebor, that many of us owe our success only to unfair quotas? I remember when women had to give up work when they married, when there was no equal pay, when women couldn't get loans in their own right, when working in a bank I couldn't be a teller because I was female even though I was better at maths than many of the boys, when hiring someone with a disability was too hard and workplace modifications could not be made. If affirmative action and anti discrimination helped change these situations, then it's all for the better
    Anonymous
    23rd Feb 2017
    2:22pm
    I agree TREBOR, affirmative action is merely a vote catcher for Labor and nothing else. The hypocrisy of affirmative action can be seen during elections when Labor trumpets about how they are looking after women by standing them in ever so many seats. Trouble is, most of the seats the women are preselected for are blue ribbon Liberal. Never mind that, at least there were an equal number of Labor men and women before the votes were cast.

    I have nothing against women in the workplace or politics. I support whoever gets a promotion or a seat if they have achieved that on merit, not because of an ideology. I worked for an employer who supported affirmative action and watched as women who were less experience, less qualified and junior in salary get promoted over men just to fill a quota. It's not sour grapes as affirmative action came in after I had worked my way far enough up the greasy pole to be above it.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:03pm
    No Sundays - I'm not playing the politics of division here - which affirmative action most certainly is. I am discussing the issue and its very real outcomes for ALL in society - not just for those who benefit and benefited from it. All I am saying and always will say is that any appointment or promotion should be entirely on merit, and you cannot accord 'merit' to someone for belonging to a specified social group.

    Read the wording of affirmative action - simple enough - "Preference will be given..." to specified groups.

    The state of chaos in our society is a pretty good indicator.
    Anonymous
    23rd Feb 2017
    3:38pm
    Why is it TREBOR when you write "specified groups" I think of Queensland University, the Human Rights Commission and money for nothing. *shudder*
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    4:45pm
    Pretty close to the mark.. take a jelly bean. My point, of course, is the entire issue of giving Preference to certain groups as a matter of policy. Instead of saying "we'll give preference to certain groups for x period of time until we feel all groups will be treated equally for employment and promotion opportunities" this nonsense was allowed to go on forever, and now the evidence is clear from 70% women etc in the public service, and has even now developed into Labor's 50% women non-democracy.

    I don;t see any moves to enforce 50% women in areas traditionally predominated by women... the whole thing is a farce, and must be stopped now.

    I very long ago stated clearly that in the event of a major conflict, women will be turned away from the recruiting offices, and men will be the first choice - women will get a gig later once the manpower situation has been resolved, but it will still, as it always has been, men at the sharp end taking the hits in 99.9% of cases.

    Note:- My WW IV book series has equal numbers of men and women in the front lines etc - those books are fiction.
    Anonymous
    23rd Feb 2017
    5:12pm
    Now, leading with my chin and certainly off topic, what really gets to me about all this "equality" is the bleeding hearts that would have us believe that we should do more for the aborigines, embrace Muslims and let gay (or whatever letters of the alphabet they are now up to) people have the right to "marry".

    Aborigines, and that includes those who identify as aboriginal, make up about 3% of the population. Gays also make up about 3% of the population. Muslims are about 2.2% of the population. Now, unless there are gay, aboriginal, Muslims out there, less than 10% of the population wants the rest of us to conform to their way of thinking. Interestingly, there is about 2.4% of Buddhists in Australia yet nobody is asking for anything for them. Seems they are a happy lot who embrace Australia and its culture.
    TREBOR
    23rd Feb 2017
    8:33pm
    You are correct - it is not the majority wanting to change things etc and compel all to abide by their thinking - it is always the minorities - and in the case of Medicare, that minority is your government.

    The majority just wake up one morning to be handed yet another 'issue' over which they have no input and no control, and if they don't go along with it, they are attacked and labeled as haters.

    Time for this nonsense to stop...
    TREBOR
    24th Feb 2017
    7:13am
    Just to continue the theme of the way that such policy moves will insinuate themselves into the host (in this case the Medicare rebate system) - the direct result of this was that many doctors dumped bulk billing and will not return to it, while new doctors coming into the market are unlikely to bulk bill from Day One.

    So the most outstanding achievement of this freeze has been to permanently raise the cost of health care to the majority at the bottom, who are least able to afford it - that cost rise has been, in many cases, double or more.

    We should never lose sight of the fact that it was Joe Hockey in the Hot Seat at the time, following the recommendation of that ill-founded 'commission of audit' of a few old mates copping a nice little on the side to rubber stamp party policy, who made it clear that unless the $7 co-payment went ahead, 'his' government would slap the people in another way. For that he should be removed from all public payrolls forever - means testing politician retirement package will do that plus a ban on appointment to another government or related position while ever they already have sufficient resources and income strands to do without. The people are not here to provide handsomely for them for life like they are some economic cripple.

    The AMA, being in a position of relatively greater personal power than the ordinary individual, refused to go along with this stand-over, which left the ordinary person high and dry, and pointed out how very little real personal power the ordinary person has in reality.

    Which leads me to a very important question (some who know me IRL may recognise my oft-used phrase - "You have to ask yourself this question - one question always leads to another") - to what extent should a people be under the absolute power and control of those they elect to serve them? Next question - to what extent should those elected representatives be permitted, like petulant infants, to punish the people who elected them for rejecting their (in this case failed in advance) party policy ?
    TREBOR
    24th Feb 2017
    7:17am
    You will notice that apart from specific issues, I keep this position non party specific - Labor are just as bad when it comes to 'take it or we'll shove it down your throat' - see the 'appoint 50% women to top jobs or we'll legislate it on you!'.

    Which leads me to misquote Elizabeth R - there will be one master here - and NO servants!

    That master is The People, not the Party. Politicians - get used to it.
    TREBOR
    24th Feb 2017
    7:53am
    Final nail for AA - you do not create equality by making some animals more equal than others. Very Orwellian...
    floss
    23rd Feb 2017
    1:11pm
    I thought the Federal Government had put a freeze on all wages except theirs.Medicare must be in big trouble or it would have sold by now.
    Blossom
    24th Feb 2017
    1:27pm
    The Medical Centre I go to has replaced all staff who have left - Doctors, Registered Nurses (they have 2 full time), receptionists, phsycologist.
    Nurses and clerical wages have increased during that time. The cost of equipment, vaccinations, bandages and other stuff have increased. Our Medical Centre has equiped another treatment room. It is also open longer hours. You don't have to call a Locum at 6.00 if you suddenly become ill---and wait about 3 hours for treatment....or go to a Public Hospital Emergency Dept. and wait as long or longer than that which can happen even if you are bad enough to go in by ambulance - even with back pain and can't sit up.
    Dollars over Respect?
    6th Mar 2017
    5:32pm
    The cost of private health insurances must be very highly inflated, which is contrary to what the profit-focussed insurance companies claim to be the case. Someone is ripping us off - who! (Perhaps inefficiencies in hospital management with over-inflated salaries for top level admin staff?) Private hospitals are run as a hotel (with rooms for doctors to do their consulting and use the facilities - money upfront first or no hope of getting in). The waiting times in NSW public hospitals are woeful and the staffing often lowly paid recruits from overseas (who often can't speak English very well - this can be very frightening). Even stretching to maintain cover at the highest end on a limited income returns so little in rebate from Medicare that doing so makes one believe it's just not worth it. How can we believe the true cost of specialist medical in-room services are justifiable, when individual specialists are charging over $460 (gastroenterologists' charges of recent times) per visit? Such (indisputable as far as the public is concerned) costs to the general public are providing these 'elite' level doctors with an excessive jet-setter lifestyle (ever noticed how often their staffing and rooms are mostly very basic and probably, from the look of the 2nd hand furniture quite cheap to run). "Greed is Good"? Very few offer a discount for pensioners, and those that do are 'selective' as to who they offer any, mostly not at all). Surely there should be some 'body' (i.e. AMA) monitoring such excesses and doing something about it. It's obviously not in the AMA's interests to do so, therefore there should be a government agency to look into such 'rip-offs' and the have the power to reign them in. Of course, there must be some specialists who work long, out of hours times, and deserve to be rewarded for their years of study - especially when they are attending patients in hospital at all hours. I often do not go ahead upon a referral because their services are just unaffordable (I need to call up first to find out what the charges are before getting caught out - as has been the case many times over). The hospitals in NSW are teetering on being 2nd world standard (NSW govt this is a disgrace - the health of the population is critical!) This is Australia, a Fair Go for All...no longer I fear.
    KB
    27th Mar 2017
    1:31pm
    Last specialist cost the earth456 for the visit and only 106 back from Medicare Now I am planning to budget for any further visits for health care with specialists and operation.
    KB
    27th Mar 2017
    1:31pm
    Last specialist cost the earth456 for the visit and only 106 back from Medicare Now I am planning to budget for any further visits for health care with specialists and operation.


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