Healthcare in turmoil

News stories over the last two weeks indicate that our current health system is unsustainable.

Healthcare in turmoil
Image credit: Shutterstock

The state of Australia’s healthcare seems to be in free fall with several news stories over the last two weeks indicating that our current system is simply unsustainable.

First, there was the news that private health insurance premiums are set to rise by an average of 6.2 per cent, with provider NIB indicating an average rise of eight per cent. This increase is the highest approved rise since 2005 and comes just 18 months after the introduction of means testing for the private health insurance rebate.

Such increases, however justified, will mean many may have to reduce their level of cover, or stop cover altogether. Matt Levy of consumer group Choice said, "With increases over time running well ahead of the consumer price index, it is obviously something that would be taking up a higher portion of household expenses than it would otherwise.

"So people should be testing the market. Look at your current cover, and look at your current provider and don't find yourself paying a premium for the fact that you're not shopping around."

Next came the news that the Federal Government refused to rule out speculation that patients would be charged a $5 fee for a bulk-billed visit to the GP. It is believed that pensioners and concession cardholders would be exempt from this fee and families would be entitled to 12 visits per annum before having to pay the fee.

The co-payment proposal has been received by the Commission of Audit, which is currently reviewing all revenue raising and saving proposals, as a means to reduce unnecessary visits to GPs. A co-payment system was introduced under then Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the 90s, but was quickly scrapped by his successor, Paul Keating.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton refused to comment on the speculation, but Dr Don Costa, of the Doctor’s Reform Society, said that the fee would only increase the pressure on hospital emergency departments. In a statement he said, "Introducing a $5 co-payment is false cost-savings. People would stop seeing their GP, ending up sicker and going to hospital - which costs thousands of dollars a day versus the current $36 to see a GP bulk-billed."

Former advisor to Tony Abbott, Terry Baines, who is behind the proposed plan, said it would be "perfectly reasonable for the states to charge a matching $5 co-payment on GP type visits to hospital emergency departments.

"If you present to an emergency department, just as if you present to a GP, that is the charge you are given," he said.

And finally came the news on Saturday that Medicare is unsustainable unless it undergoes a major overhaul. In an interview with Fairfax, Peter Dutton made the claim when questioned about the introduction of the above fee when visiting the GP. ''In the end, we want to strengthen Medicare and we want to strengthen our health system, but we can't do that if we leave change to the 11th hour,'' Mr Dutton said. ''The threshold question is whether people want the health system of today strengthened for tomorrow, because at the moment the health system is heading to a point where it will become unmanageable.''

He also stated that given annual spending has increased over the last decade from $8.1 billion to $17.8 billion and that the increased pressure on health budgets as the population ages would only continue to grow with conditions such as dementia and diabetes becoming more prevalent. This makes it difficult to understand from where the funding would come.

Read more about private health insurance premium increases at ABC.net.au

Read more about proposed $5 bulk billing fee at SMH.com.au 

Read more about Peter Dutton’s Fairfax interview at SMH.com.au 

Opinion: Sick and poor to suffer

There is only one thing you can take from the above three news items and that is; if you’re sick and poor, forget it!

It’s no secret that our current healthcare system is struggling to cope with our sick and elderly and that the waiting list for procedures to cure non-life threatening conditions is only growing. This isn’t a recent phenomenon. It’s not a direct consequence of anything the current government, previous, or even government prior to that has done; it’s simply the cumulative effect of not acting earlier to combat the impact of a population which is not only ageing, but also more prone to lifestyle diseases.

Therefore, I simply can’t see how approving such a hike in private health insurance premiums or introducing a fee to see a bulk-billing GP will help.

Surely increasing private health insurance premiums to such a stage where people simply can’t afford to be covered will result in more pressure on an already stretched health system? Would it not make more sense to ensure private health insurance is more affordable, so when people need medical assistance they can simply have it paid for by their insurance company? Of course insurance providers have to make a profit but, as is also the case with the big banks, do they need to make such a huge profit? Is it not time that there’s an overall understanding that our health service simply can’t cope and forego this year’s premium increase?

Also, why would introducing a $5 fee to visit a bulk-billing GP stop people from visiting a doctor? There are very few people who visit a doctor without genuine need.  Coupled with the difficulty in finding a doctor who bulk bills for those who don’t hold a concession card, this is trying to solve a problem which probably doesn’t exist.

It would, however, hurt those who live just on the breadline, those who need to visit their doctor frequently, but don’t have a concession card. Families with two or three children can easily find themselves visiting a GP more than 12 times a year for legitimate reasons, but can they afford to pay an extra $5 each time, on top of medication costs? Probably not.

So yes, the Medicare system quite possibly does need an overhaul, but making health insurance unaffordable and imposing an ineffective fee will only add to the problem, not provide any solution.

Would you pay an additional $5 to visit your bulk-billing GP? Should health insurance be more affordable? Will you reduce or cancel your private health care as a result of these latest premium increases? Do you think these increased charges will have a positive or negative effect on an already stretched health care system?





    COMMENTS

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    patcat
    6th Jan 2014
    11:35am
    Just joined a fund
    DUH !!!!!!
    wally
    6th Jan 2014
    11:56am
    The proposed $5 fee for visits to the GP should be kept in perspective. I think the intention of this proposal is to reduce visits to the doctor for complaints of a less serious nature such as bruises and ankle sprains which do not, as a rule, require Xrays or prescription medicines for treatment. People with these and similar complaints attending hospital emergency departments would increase waiting times in emergency departments unless a similar $5 charge were to be instituted should also be added to the discussion. Perhaps patients with chronic ailments needing more frequent visits to the GP should have a cap placed on the charges for renewing or changing prescriptions for the same medical condition. I would suggest that the cap be placed at 4 x $5 - $20 for a six month period for people returning to the GP to have their treatment and condition monitored.

    So why the fuss about a $5 charge? That would just about buy a Big Mac or a glass of beer these days. Then the bulk billing GP appears to be a dying breed anyway, so I suspect that the "problem" will diminish in time to insignificance.
    moorlands
    6th Jan 2014
    12:07pm
    As a couple we pay BUPA $141 per fortnight, add on the 30% that the Govt contribute brings it up to $183 per fortnight, the proposed 6% rise will bring it to $194 per fortnight, that's $97 per week, $5051 per year, also on a regular basis cover for some items is discontinued. The whole insurance industry should be investigated.
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2014
    3:27pm
    I agree - far too much. I dont pay any because first off it was tax deductible until Whitlam brought in Medibank and then decided to drop it as lost rebate. So from then on after costs began to rise as the population and also pay for doctors and nurses were being demanded regularly as with Teachers. We decided to open a medical account and pay in a premium we would have for any treatments and it will well pay funeral costs even though as paid for lots of house replacements like aluminium windows and HWS lately as retired and no help and GFC wasnt great. Our family youhngsters are doing the same and find it beneficial - you know nothing free is ever used properly always gets messed up by some and majority suffer.
    Instead of 30% rebate I would say preferable for a tax deduction then it would be taken up and valued.
    Jurassicgeek
    6th Jan 2014
    12:22pm
    I would be sustainable if we did not service so many freeloaders..
    moke
    6th Jan 2014
    3:52pm
    I agree with you Jurassicgeek,
    catsahoy
    6th Jan 2014
    9:38pm
    I VISITED MY DOCTOR TODAY, just for repeats on my current medication, i was shocked when i walked in, to find the waiting room almost full of indian or african people, and while i waited 5 others arrived, non of whom paid, one could not even understand what the receptionist was saying, in regard to filling out his details, in the 6 years i have been going to this doctor, i have only seen 1/2 muslins or indians,its hard to know what they are, i dont mean this dis respectfuly, but all are black, some in robes, others partly covered, its hard to say where they are from, but i suspect there atre a lot more here than we are being told, would be interesting to have figures on just how many are here, as for the hospitals, a few years ago you paid to see a doctor at the hospital, you were means tested and paid accordingly, a piece in the herald sun last week suggesting chemists could be responsible for doing repeat scripts, i think its a great idea, i always use the same chemist, and he knows my history as well as my doctor, i would be quite happy for him to do my scripts, save the doctors time and at times i have found my chemist to be more helpful than a doctor, we could pay a small fee to the chemist,
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2014
    10:12pm
    Catsahoy I can see your point regards your chemist doing your repeat scripts but it is fraught with danger for this to happen.
    Your doctor can check if the medication is having the required affect , your chemist cannot do this for obvious reasons. Your doctor can change your medication if he/ she thinks it necessary your chemist cannot.
    Young Simmo
    7th Jan 2014
    12:07am
    Bofor I beg to differ on your last sentence. At our local Medical Centre in ( Oop's I better stop there ), we book to see a nurse for repeat prescriptions. My Doctor is a white Dutchman, and the nurse gets a black Sudanese who I have never met to sign the script. I believe he gets 25 bucks per signature, which is not bad for about 10 to 15 seconds of his time. I believe all the Doctors at the Medical Centre take it in turns to collect that little bonus, on a daily basis.
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    10:03am
    Young Simmo if I recall correctly you are a Sand Groper. Let me assure you as a resident of The Sunshine State it is illegal for any doctor to sign or issue a script without seeing the patient. I suggest you check the legality of the current procedure with the W.A. health authorities.
    Sounds dodgy to me.
    Young Simmo
    7th Jan 2014
    10:42am
    Correct Bofor, I am a Sandgroper, up in the sun actually. The practice of nurses writing prescriptions and the Doctors signing them has been going on for quite a few years actually. It does speed up the process as I can usually ring up and get an appointment within 3 or 4 hours which is better that a week or so when you are down to the last Tab or 2. Our Medical Centre is a reasonably sized professional outfit, so I can only assume they have crossed the Tees and dotted the Is
    Rosscoe
    6th Jan 2014
    12:44pm
    We already pay a Medicare levy to cover this expense. Abbott Government- stop trying to make workers pay for the top end of town! I'm afraid that there will be more of these sorts of attacks on families in 2014. I'd also like a federal government to refuse any future requests to increase medical benefits levies by these health companies. Start at the top and reduce the salaries of CEO's! Then, voters would know you are serious in looking after the national interest, not just the interest of a privileged few.
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    7:51pm
    bofor, i see your point ,re the scripts, but i didnt mean for the chemist to take over, but some of my scripts i get 4 repeats,so the doctor doesnt see me anyway, maybe the chemist could do 3/4 scripts then you HAVE to see doc again,for the reasons you pointed out, YOUNG SIMMO, the doc i had previous to this one, was like your, and wrote scrips out and others would sign them, he was reported and got into a almighty mess, he left that practice and went down the coast so dont know how he is going now,
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    7:51pm
    bofor, i see your point ,re the scripts, but i didnt mean for the chemist to take over, but some of my scripts i get 4 repeats,so the doctor doesnt see me anyway, maybe the chemist could do 3/4 scripts then you HAVE to see doc again,for the reasons you pointed out, YOUNG SIMMO, the doc i had previous to this one, was like your, and wrote scrips out and others would sign them, he was reported and got into a almighty mess, he left that practice and went down the coast so dont know how he is going now,
    Chookman
    6th Jan 2014
    12:53pm
    Remove the private health rebate and use the savings to cover the cost of the public health system. I have and will continue to pay private health and don't believe the rebate gives value for our health dollar. The alternative is a radical overhaul of the tax system - a most unlikely scenario.
    Fiona
    6th Jan 2014
    12:53pm
    There don't seem to be many bulkbilling doctors that are around here. My children's families always have to pay the full cost then claim some of it back from medicare.I'm lucky that i am bulkbilled because I have a pension card. However I wouldn't mind paying a $5 fee, in fact I hate going and only attend to get my script renewed.

    Actually when there's only a renewal it would be nice if the chemist could do it after checking the bloodpressure.
    I have kept private cover because it's nice to know if I'm ill I can probably get into hospital a bit quicker.

    6th Jan 2014
    12:53pm
    I agree with Wally in his comments regards to the fact that a $5 charge would buy a Big Mac.

    Never ceases to amaze me that the so called poor and destitute in many cases can still smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol but cannot spend two bob on their health.These people smoke in the house with their children present and then head to the "Gimmee" doctor with a child whose eyes water from the air laden with tobacco smoke.

    Wally, as usual, has read the comments in the article that asks "What are our suggestions that could help". So before other contributors start blaming the ousted Labor Party or the new government or the Pommie cricket team, God bless their little cotton sox, read the article as Wally has.

    My Ideas. $5 charge including visits to Emergency Departments at Public Hospitals.
    A safety net of say 24 visits per year per patient. For the mathematically challenged that is 2 visits per person per month. After this the qualifying person pays nothing or a reduced fee of $2.
    Again for the sake of not blowing brain cells this would mean a person visiting the GP and or the ED on 52 occasions in a year would pay a total of $176 PER YEAR.
    24 @ $5= $120
    28 @ $2= $ 56
    $176 per year to receive 52 visits or 1 each and every week.
    In the event that more than one child under the age of 16 years visits with a sibling for the same medical condition to the same GP at the same time the charge is for ONE person IE: $5 0r $2 as applicable.

    Over to the rabid "I pay my taxes and it is not my job to care for myself, that is someone elses job" bunch. GOOD HEALTH TO YOU ALL IN 2014.





    As regular readers of my comments will be aware I am anti the "Gimmee" mentality that exists in our society.
    Bluebell
    6th Jan 2014
    7:48pm
    And play the pokies X-Lotto, Bingo etc. I know a family that was in arrears with water rates, yet continued to play bingo every week. What's more if they didn't have cash in their purses/wallets they would drive a considerable distance to a ATM to get money.
    Anonymous
    11th Jan 2014
    12:36pm
    I agree with everything you said Bofor. Last year husband and I had 5 visits each to the doctor; none of which were for anything important at all; three were for prescriptions. We are both over 70 and pay private health insurance plus the medicare levy plus even more. We don't smoke and drink sparingly and watch what we eat and have had not had the flu for years because we have the yearly flu shot.
    Re those who are on welfare and smoke and drink...you have got to remember they have their priorities and smoking and drinking come before anything else...don't you know that. The government and the taxpayer will pay for everything else.
    Nightshade
    6th Jan 2014
    1:24pm
    First, there should not be PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE. It is a scam & if we the people of Australia did not fall for the scams they would not happen anymore.
    Nightshade
    6th Jan 2014
    1:47pm
    Second, this latest scaremongering is just the usual & typical tactics of CRYING POOR, from - especially the Liberal / National Party's.
    The TIGHTFISTED Liberal / National Party's are in the process of re-allocating MONEY to their favorite haunts & the scare tactics are so as to frighten the people of Australia, so as to distract the people of Australia from looking & seeing the reality.
    It is called "the Henny Penny & the sky is falling routine"
    AND GUESS WHAT .../? IT WORKS LIKE A CHARM EVERY TIME.

    If there were really MONEY shortages in the healthcare arena -
    The RETAINER which is paid to the medical profession (some $200.000 per annum & this is before bulk billing monies are paid) for nonperformance, would be reduced.

    Then again, there have been rumors & for several years now, that the Australian Health Care System is being SOLD OFF to the Pharmaceutical Industry.
    And simply because it is too much work for the government. Apparently MONIES are pouring out of the public purse & into the pockets of the medical profession like water from a tap.
    The Political Arena is puzzled as to what to do about it & loathed to confront the dynamo that is the medical profession.....so they are passing the buck.
    Nightshade
    6th Jan 2014
    1:55pm
    According to The CEC Party reports & due to the new Obama Care System
    The United States Healthcare system is being torn down - reduced.
    DOCTORS ARE LOOSING THEIR JOBS AND FOR GOOD
    Today it is being implemented in the United States.
    Make no mistake, like the copycat that Australia's Political Arena is/are.
    Tomorrow the political arena of Australia will be implementing it in Australia.
    DOCTORS IN AUSTRALIA WILL BE ON THE DOLE CUES.... 100% FOR CERTAIN.
    Nightshade
    6th Jan 2014
    1:56pm
    And
    Just deserts I reckon !
    Jurassicgeek
    6th Jan 2014
    6:16pm
    Private Health Insurance is Con Job...Every year the price goes up and the benefits go down...the excess becomes more frequent...
    Pickles
    6th Jan 2014
    2:20pm
    I would agree with the proposal that $5-00 fee be charged for a doctor visit even though my wife and myself have to make constant and regular visits to our G. P. We are both on the age pension and next year will both be in our 80's
    I hope that before such a charge is introduced that a complete audit should or would be made of the number of and classes of people who are currently able to hold "concession" cards that currently entitle them to hold such cards and also that such cards be Means tested to eliminate those people on high superannuation and family trusts payments I believe that under the current Pension Rules a pensioner who owns their own home and is partnered can have up to nearly a Million Dollars in investments etc and still qualify for a part pension The sooner this mess is sorted out the better provided it done fairly and the results do not make things better for superannuated public servant and worse for the working class
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2014
    3:41pm
    Positive step in the right direction as they means test the age pension so should all benefits be means tested and health care cards as well plus of course we should have had the Smart Card but that was ousted as on privacy and liberty issues. And Retinal scan too cost huge maybe but savings greater. Stops the rorting going on with too many using the same one card. No photo and no one ever asks for ID just address etc.
    Jurassicgeek
    6th Jan 2014
    6:25pm
    BigVal...Means test the age pension???...you cant get the age pension without being means tested...
    We dont need the smart card because they already know what the need to know without it..data matching etc etc ...The big problem is we are supporting too many freeloaders, boat people, immigrants,Islamics who wont work in a pink fit..
    We could have a really great Health Care system if only we could stop spending money supporting other countries and corrupt regimes...THEN money would not be the problem..
    Abby
    11th Jan 2014
    10:02pm
    Why should they not be entitled to a pension same as you ?
    They have paid their taxes and saved their money
    Why at the end of it should they not also have the benefit
    Good for them if they saved up and have a nice home.

    6th Jan 2014
    2:26pm
    I am about to go from Medibank Private over to HBF which is not for profit fund and is only putting up there fees a bit over 2%. Hardly use our cover but we just have to have it just in case considering our ages. If everyone drops their cover you will never get seen in the public hospitals.
    Abby
    11th Jan 2014
    10:06pm
    Yes
    I agree with you Radish
    I use BUPA - do you think HBF is better ?
    I am not happy with BUPA since it changed from MBF
    Do you not lose some of the benefits and waiting periods by changing ?
    dougie
    6th Jan 2014
    2:29pm
    I will not make a comment of the Health system as I believe that responsible government will provide us with the best system that we can afford. Much better than many other substantive countries.
    However I will comment on the fact that one can easily see the political colours of the writers by their comments and it would seem that Labor voters will never be happy to see what the current government can achieve. I will hold my voice until I see what is suggested and then make relevant comment, not airy fairy comments about pie in the sky suggestions.
    dippity
    6th Jan 2014
    3:15pm
    I'm with you Dougie. Often what is reported as news turns out to be a complete furphy. Private health funds go up every year. It is just a matter of how much. I currently pay $81 per fortnight. I don't always recoup what it costs me year on year. But a little knee replacement 15 months ago put me way ahead of the game. We get what we pay for. On a prior occasion I was in a public hospital as a private patient. I received great care there and probably helped the hospital balance sheet! They were very keen for me to charge my private health fund.

    I think that $5 a visit to the doctor is acceptable, so long as the doctor waives that charge for follow-up visits. I think that this co-payment should be at the discretion of the GP who would, I would hope, have some idea of patients' circumstances.

    6th Jan 2014
    3:20pm
    For years we have seen nurses and doctors wanting more pay on top of new technology big items for hospitals and growing populations. Cant keep on blaming the elderly as they havent bottomed out yet not until 2040 will the crisis hit was always reported and still is AFAIK. Lowe premiums wont help unless of course the funds have huge profits and pay out huge dividends or salaries etc which only an audit would prove - doctors are scarce outside cities and mainly third world at that as ours wont come to rural areas. So if we are using too much money surely a good hard look without the usual blame the old would be more enlightening and problem sorted. It has to be something to do with pay or profits one way or simply too many taking from a shinking pot of money again. More like the latter with a bit of the former thrown in my guess. As we never get to hear just how many are drawing down on government welfare and for how long except for Aussie long term unemployed but keep on taking in thousand upon thousand of unskilled non English speaking people who need all services plus housing with few jobs for them availabe these days and a system of large families actually finding it more beneficial to stay on welfare because the main breadwinner cant earn the amount that Centrelink pays plus other benefits. This is the elephant in the room that the left cry racist when spoken, but it is ok as for our own older retired workers to be blamed when they have contributed because no one cares enough to actually defend them except a few none brainwashed by political correctness who are then penalized if public figures.
    Now the last Labor government were going to allow the pharmacists to do the repeat script on blood pressure meds saving Medicare 1 doctor visit pa but they lobbied as usual needing the business. Mr Dutton should put this into practice right away if genuine about cutting costs. Howmany like myself only do 2 visits a year for BP scripts or other where a simple blood test by the pharmacist and if ok fill the renewal ?
    KSS
    6th Jan 2014
    3:58pm
    Ideologically, I believe that all CITIZENS have a right to free high quality health and education and this should be provided by the community i.e. the Government paid for through taxes. This means if you are not a citizen then you pay! So if you have a resident visa (permanent or temporary), work visa, student visa, 457 visa etc then you are not entitled to free health and education and you pay.

    However we do not live in an ideal world and all of us have to pay in one way or another. Therefore my suggestion is to implement fees and charges for all non-citizens first. I see no problem with having different rules applying to those who are not Australians.

    If there is to be a $5 fee to see a Doctor then make the same (or higher ) fee applicable in emergency departments for non-emergency visits, e.g. a cold is NOT an emergency.

    And by the way, older single working people with no dependants are the real victims of continual price increases in health insurance premiums and are always forgotten in favour of 'families'. They are not eligible for any 'handouts', tax relief or otherwise (as it should be) but are expected to simply keep paying even when their own single salary does not keep up.
    41Alpha
    6th Jan 2014
    4:03pm
    I've basically had private health insurance I migrated to Australia some 25 years ago.
    I don't think it is worth it, every year without fail the costs go up well above the inflation rate.
    The sad thing is that when you really need health insurance ( when you retire) it is really not affordable. I'm surprised that no enterprising health insurer hasn't come up with a plan, where by you pay a little extra when you are young in order to 'of set' the higher fees in later years..
    A big contributing factor to expensive private heath care insurance, is the greedy Private Hospitals It's pretty obvious we are getting ripped off.

    6th Jan 2014
    4:05pm
    One suggestion here was really hitting the spot. Means testing for all concession cards not just issue for part age pensioners or health care cards either. Because with some they are used for another part of the family who have an income or passed around because of unless I have gone to bad places in the last 45 years I have lived here no one ever asks to see, from standing behind a concession type card holder, their ID. Just ask, like for myself, if a repeat visit, still at same address. So why didn't they bring in the Smart Card suggested some years back?
    I asked my pharmacist only the other day because of always seeming to have to sit in a waiting room full of people with no tissues and sniffling colds which may be reason for visit or just a coincidence but not nice when you too develop one too a couple of days later. he said the doctors lobbied hard to stop it as would lose them business. So much for the care of patients eh more harm in their waiting rooms these days when too many use a GP for a cold which cant be cured anyway. Or demand an Antibiotic and some say get one which many stop taking half way through the course and we have with animals oversuse too - superbugs and no new anticbiotic asDrug companies no longer want to spend on finding new due to generics who dont pay the R&D. Lovely world where "progressive" means more "regressive" to my mind lately. Not blaming Labor who tried hard, that hung parliament was disastrous.
    Could fix it by getting rid of compulsory voting imo. And rid us of preference deals as well as donations paid to all parties to get a jump start over the majority of the population usually ending in higher profits. This is hidden cost of healthcare and all else too I suspect. Only need to see its why the pharmacist deal got deleted.
    Renny
    6th Jan 2014
    4:20pm
    My concern is that we are being told that the health system is in crisis - is it? I believe I read that our spending on health is a smaller percentage of GDP than the almost totally private US system. I think politicians and the media are very good at telling us things are 'rooned' when a little more data would show they are not. My sister just had timely, effective and superlative treatment for cancer in the public system (thanks Liverpool - fantastic hospital). Me - I can't afford the gap that comes with private health - dropped it several years ago. It concerns me that governments have let the for profits into health insurance - we're seeing how well that works in aged care and child care - NOT! They will whinge while ever they are able to make bigger and bigger profits.
    Dot
    6th Jan 2014
    4:31pm
    With the massage influx of boat people over the last decade not to mention immigration how much of that has put a strain on the health system costs, don't forget these people have no private health cover and rely on bulk billing.
    Jurassicgeek
    6th Jan 2014
    6:25pm
    yep you nailed it..
    Chookman
    6th Jan 2014
    8:59pm
    Yep Dot - if you or your forebears arrived here by boat in the past 250 years you should be excluded from the health system - sounds fair!
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2014
    10:43pm
    Chookman are you suggesting only the original people of this land we now call Australia should be the ONLY ones to receive benefits from the health system?

    If yo are then those wanting to avail themselves of the current health system should be of 100% provable background, no UK or other European background, no Malay background. In other words no other nationality just 100% pre white settlement or Malay visitors
    If this what you mean then pray who is to treat these people surely not white people or other western trained medicos?
    peterseaford
    6th Jan 2014
    6:29pm
    well I have read many of these posts and believe that most of us would be "enlightened" if we visited a public hospital and see who is waiting for attention.

    The next step is to ask the hospital just how many dollars are unpaid by people attending that hospital and expected to pay a fee.

    Then ask what action is taken to collect those monies.

    Most will be to busy to look into the matter but comment anyway

    6th Jan 2014
    7:33pm
    Well - all I have to say to that is that the system seemed to work all right for a long time - what is the problem now? I think the whole thing - like ever so many other areas of government input - needs a good long hard independent look, and some idea of where the Black Holes in THIS system are coming from.

    Well - golly gee dash! You can get tooth transplants in the UK on National 'Elf....

    Basically - what I see is that there is a need to differentiate between income and family income in determining everything today -for example Tony's PPL idea of six months pay for a woman on $150k - who in 99% of cases has a husband on the same or more - needs a serious look in this context. HTF can a couple not budget for family on $300k a year?

    Pensioners survive for a year on around 27% of that amount offered as a freebie vote catcher - and their bills don't go away either. A pensioner could live 3.5 years on $75k....

    Waht is wrong with this - and the former - government's priorities?

    EVERYONE would be a lot better off with lower demand on housing prices and cost of living WITHOUT all these huge freebies.
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2014
    10:47pm
    Agree The Grappler the whole system has become like a cancer slowly eating away as our WANTS get further ahead of our NEEDS.
    Huskie
    6th Jan 2014
    7:51pm
    Most of the comments made so far show a shallow understanding of how the Aus Health system works.
    Firstly Private Health Insurance is not "insurance" as commonly accepted. It is only a hedging fund. The Private Health Insurance industry is monitored and regulated by legislation, the Dept of Health (Federal), the Private Health Insurance Administration Council and the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. All Private Health Insurance funds MUST accept as a member any person that applies (tho' they may exclude or limit coverage for pre-existing conditions) for this reason all funds pay an amount into a fund that is used to provide support for those Funds that have a higher than normal number of "high risk" members.
    The most significant issue is that unlike the UK and other countries the doctors in Aus are treated as individual businesses and can set their own fees. The Australian Government, and Australians, need to start treating Health Care Providers as "service providers" not as demi-gods and putting them on a pedestal (yes doctor, whatever you say doctor) and not worry about the price.
    You would shop around for the best price for a car/fridge/television, why not for health care?
    The Australian Medical profession is the biggest and best union controlled "closed shop" in existence!
    Doctors decide who studies to be a doctor
    Doctors decide who qualifies to be a doctor
    Doctors decide if a qualified person can practice as a doctor
    Doctors decide what and where they can practice their craft
    Doctors decide what additional qualifications they can attain
    Doctors decide and determine if they are competent as a doctor when in practice
    Doctors put pressure on other doctors to charge a standard price - AMA Schedule Fees

    The Federal Government should mandate electronic transactions for Medicare payments i.e state a business rule that says "if you want to do business with us these are the conditions". Basically the Government needs to take on the Medical Profession! This has been done in the USA, Canada and NZ. The Governor of one Canadian Province de-registered all doctors because his son died as a result of doctors refusing treatment without payment. All the above situations caused a period of disruption but, like Ronald Reagan sacking all the US Air Traffic Controllers, the system did not crumble and fail it returned in a more realistic and flexible form.
    As an aside I have had extensive experience in the Australian Health system and it is not broken it just needs someone with the guts to standup to bullies. I also spent 20 years in the aviation industry.
    The Health Industry it is the most factionalised and dysfunctional industry. The AMA represents less than half the doctors in Australia and each speciality is out to protect it's own interest regardless of the patient.
    Having said the above I have met many dedicated, caring and professional medico's but as a group they are generally very self interested.
    Bluebell
    6th Jan 2014
    7:55pm
    Some of the problem is the huge gaps some specialists charge if you attend a private surgery. One particular one I used to see charged a $60.00 gap above the amount Medicare pays. As I no longer work my Dr. suggested I go to a Public Hospital Outpatients and made the necessary arrangements. They don't even accept Medicare cards. As a follow-up appointment was needed my appt. was made 11 months ahead. A few days ago I received a letter saying my appt. has been amended from early Feb. to 31/3. By sheer coincidence I saw the same specialist as I had been seeing privately. If I have a relapse in the meantime I will be taken to hospital in an ambulance.
    sybilla
    6th Jan 2014
    8:34pm
    Why is it always about the poor old GP. Why are specialists never included in these gripes? Why is the outrageous gap between Medicare payment and the specialist's fee never addressed in the media? Why is the plight of pensioners who must spend an average one third of their weekly income to visit a specialist never mentioned? Why can't my neighbour afford to see his rheumatologist every three months as she requests him
    to? Why don't you run a feature on this one!!??
    Paddles
    6th Jan 2014
    10:03pm
    I have had a skim over what can only be described as the usual "miss the point" crap that our forum seems to generate and, yet again, nobody appears to have addressed the main point of medical consultations.
    A long life and common sense has taught me to assess and evaluate the situation when some minor aberration in ones health appears. Added to that, we now have access to the greatest information source which we refer to (generically) as Google.
    Fact is, by my own observation and the advice of a family member who is a practising GP, there is a disturbing amount of unnecessary calls upon the medical system. I had an elderly member of my family (now deceased) who factored into her weekly schedule a visit to the "Doctor". She made it into her nineties with generally robust good health but the Dr's visit was sacred.
    My conclusion is that my deceased relative was not Robinson Crusoe and you could put a string of noughts behind her 1.
    The current world is unrecognisable from the one of my formative years but, by whatever means, people need to be encouraged, informed and guided into a more rational approach to a bout of sniffles and made to realise that many minor ailments have to run their course and that course is not shortened by a visit to the Doctor and the issuance of what is usually a completely unnecessary prescription.
    heeler
    6th Jan 2014
    10:24pm
    The article misses an obvious 4th point which will disadvantage many!

    The Federal Government has cut out the "Net medical expenses tax offset" to most from 1 July 2013 which gave a 20% tax offset when a families total medical expenses exceed $2250 - they have deleted it on the basis that they need the funding for the National Disability Scheme - too bad for those with pressing family medical problems who received a little relief at tax time

    Cheers
    heeler
    doggone
    7th Jan 2014
    12:20am
    its no wonder we have problems with our health system.
    we have six state governments, two territory governments and a federal governments of different political persuasion all with a department of health.
    crikey rush the health system to the emergency department of the nearest hospital and then it be placed in the icu.
    survival will depend on abolishing all this governmental mess.
    Young Simmo
    7th Jan 2014
    12:39am
    Don't change anything I say, the current system is perfect. Me and the Misses go onto the free meds about June every year, then when January rocks up we start paying 3,6 or 10 Dollars a script until about June. We are both 74, payed our share and are now Happy Chappies. Leave it alone, get it? or do I have to say it again?
    tango18
    7th Jan 2014
    10:06am
    As a single pensioner I never qualify for the "safety net", which is the same amount for singles and couples. I know quite a few couples who qualify each year but not one single pensioner. Seems unfair that the safety net is the same whether family, couples or single as somebody on their own is never going to qualify.
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    10:12am
    Hey Simmo with a black Sudanese signing scripts written by a nurse you should be on the freebies in January :)- Good luck to you and the missus, mine left me for a younger model, my best mate incidentally. I have never met him but he is my best mate. S**t I wonder if he is a black Sudanese doctor.
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    10:16am
    I agree with Tango, singles should only need half of a couples cost before being able to go on freebies.
    Young Simmo
    7th Jan 2014
    10:52am
    Bofor, I think you should be sending your best mate a $1000 cheque each year as a reward for saving you thousands of bucks a year by relieving you of the enormous load. Just imagine the cost of all the dresses, shoes and hairdos you are not copping. P.S. I don't let my darling read my comments, He, He, He.
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    5:16pm
    Simmo prices must be low in Sand Groper country. $ 1,000 a year? More like a month in the land God created last so he could be sure it was right.
    Young Simmo
    7th Jan 2014
    6:04pm
    tango 18, I agree 100%, the main obstacle is getting a politician to lend a sympathetic ear. Trouble is when that happens, you will also be able to solve all your physical and sickness problems and wont need medication.
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    8:14pm
    TANGO 18, as part of a pensioner couple,we ,like YOUNG SIMMO, go onto the free list about june/july. but i agree with you,its unfair that singles should have to reach the same amout as couples, it should be about 2/3rds of the amount, as singlesget more each than couples do, so should be worked out accordingly,
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    8:14pm
    TANGO 18, as part of a pensioner couple,we ,like YOUNG SIMMO, go onto the free list about june/july. but i agree with you,its unfair that singles should have to reach the same amout as couples, it should be about 2/3rds of the amount, as singlesget more each than couples do, so should be worked out accordingly,
    Tom Tank
    7th Jan 2014
    2:29pm
    A fundamental point is being totally missed so far and that is the number of private health funds that are being supported by tax payers dollars.
    The private funds were going to the wall until Mr Howard brought in the 30% payment from the taxpayers that saved those funds. Each fund has an infrastructure that has to be financed with salaries, bonuses etc as well as normal administration plus advertising costs.
    It has been shown overseas that the most cost effective medical care system is a monopoly under government control. This would sweep away all the aforementioned costs the system has to carry.
    This would, of course, be totally unacceptable to the current Liberal Government as they have their "private enterprise is best" blinkers on.
    As a matter on interest I checked the increase of Medicare costs against the increase in Federal Politicians salaries over the last 10 years and guess what? Medicare increased by 119% and Senators base salaries by 90% while average wages increased by 55%. Does this mean that politicians salaries are at an unsustainable level??
    Innyoo
    7th Jan 2014
    3:09pm
    uh, where do you find a doctor who bulk bills??
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    5:12pm
    Innyoo, move to Qld. Second thoughts don`t we have enough freeloaders already.
    Jurassicgeek
    8th Jan 2014
    5:45pm
    ring them and ask...just do a yellow pages walk...
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    8:21pm
    it is hard to find a doctor who bulk bills, the medical centre we had been attending for about 15 years had to close down,[ the ministry of housing, which ownedthe land, sold it off to private enterprise, for private units to be built, we had a terrible time findind another doc, the ones in our area either werent taking any more new patients, or didnt bulk bill, we finally got into a clinic that mainly deals in industrial accidents, but we were lucky, some of the patients from tnhere haveto travel miles,
    catsahoy
    9th Jan 2014
    8:21pm
    it is hard to find a doctor who bulk bills, the medical centre we had been attending for about 15 years had to close down,[ the ministry of housing, which ownedthe land, sold it off to private enterprise, for private units to be built, we had a terrible time findind another doc, the ones in our area either werent taking any more new patients, or didnt bulk bill, we finally got into a clinic that mainly deals in industrial accidents, but we were lucky, some of the patients from tnhere haveto travel miles,
    Rob
    7th Jan 2014
    3:47pm
    The government should first look to Centrelink and cutback on the amount of money and assistance handed to refugees. Nowhere in the world would a government with a population as small as ours be handing out so much money and benefits to people. I believe where people are genuine refugees, assistance should be given, but not to the extent of what is happening here and to the grave cost to our health scheme. However when refugees arrive, every health and dental check is carried out. Recently I was told even at a sports centre where it cost the Australian customer $600 for 3 months membership for his children to attend, the government was paying the full fee for the refugee families. Australians are fast suffering and going to the end of the queue. Why aren't these facts put to the government and a full audit done to reveal the true financial cost to our population? Politicians impose very different rules for Australians and expect them to keep paying more and more to subsidise very unfair practices. The audit could reveal savings that the present government is expecting us to bear and still not receive proper health treatment. The politicians are the servants of the taxpayers and hardly a whimper is heard from the "employers".
    Tom Tank
    7th Jan 2014
    10:10pm
    It would appear Rob that you would believe in the tooth fairy if someone told you they existed.
    sibbo
    7th Jan 2014
    10:15pm
    It would free Doctor availability if Employers didn't make it mandatory for Employees to obtain a Doctor's Certificate to present when a day or two is taken off work, when all is needed is time in bed to allow one's body to repair itself with rest and recuperation. A complete waste of money and time. Understand the need if the allocation of sick leave per annum has already been utilised but until then trust your employees to know their bodies needs. We all too often need a quick fix because it is frowned upon to utilise rest as the means of healing our ailments so a Medical Practitioner has to be visited and paid a fee to tell the patient to go home and rest. Senseless !
    Anonymous
    7th Jan 2014
    11:22pm
    Sibbo you thinking of having a few days off at the bosses cost?
    It would be great if you could trust your staff but there are always those you can`t.
    The sickie is a institution in the Australian workers mind.
    Tom Tank
    8th Jan 2014
    8:35am
    The sickie has proved to be a valuable asset to employers as it allows an employee a day off to recharge their batteries. Yes it appears to be abused but overall it is effective.
    Those who are locked into the mindset that everyone should be head down and bum up for 18 hours a day would not appreciate the psychology behind this as they have not progressed beyond the employee as a slave mentality.
    geomac
    7th Jan 2014
    10:28pm
    The private health subsidy is rising to 5 billion wasted dollars a year . It has not stopped escalating price rises or eased the pressure on public hospitals . It could be argued that the subsidy has adversely affected public hospitals .
    Katie
    8th Jan 2014
    2:34am
    That's what happens with a liberal government
    Anonymous
    11th Jan 2014
    12:42pm
    The suggestion of a $5 charge was not put up by the Abbott government at all.

    If you read what is actually said it is being proposed by the Government’s National Commission of Audit set up by Abbott and this is a suggestion they are putting forward.

    The Commission has been tasked with identifying enough savings to deliver a surplus of 1% of GDP by 2023-24. It is due to report to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann by the end of the month.

    Neither Abbott nor Health Minister Peter Dutton would rule out a Medicare co-payment scheme in the media this weekend, drawing fire from the Australian Labor Party, Greens, Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Doctors’ Reform Society.

    So these are the real facts; whether or not the government goes with this suggestion remains to be seen
    Fiona
    8th Jan 2014
    12:09pm
    I agree with Sibbo.My daughter works for a supermarket and hardly ever takes any sick leave yet they always ask for a certificate even if it's for one day. The clinic is not bulk bill so it's about $68 if she can get in. Sometimes there are no appointments for a couple of days.
    catsahoy
    10th Jan 2014
    7:12pm
    FIONA,maybe thechemistcould be used here,whereno doctor is readilly available for a certificate,the chemist could write out a note that would suffice until the patient saw a doctor,iknow if idont make an appointment for when iknow iwillrun out of tabs,i could have a wait of 2/3 weeks,thedocs are getting over crowded,
    catsahoy
    10th Jan 2014
    7:12pm
    FIONA,maybe thechemistcould be used here,whereno doctor is readilly available for a certificate,the chemist could write out a note that would suffice until the patient saw a doctor,iknow if idont make an appointment for when iknow iwillrun out of tabs,i could have a wait of 2/3 weeks,thedocs are getting over crowded,
    sibbo
    10th Jan 2014
    8:39pm
    It's not just the patient's that are tired of trying to get an appointment with a Doctor just to obtain a Certificate, the Doctor's themselves, at least the ethical ones I know are also fed up with this unnecessary practice, when their time and energy could be utilised to see those that actually need their assistance and advice. The days are gone when one falls ill of being able see a Doctor same day or even the next day so Doctors are not coping with the demand. I for one like to see the same Doctor and build a repore with them. They get to know you and you get to know them. Now it is like shopping for any Doctor that can fit you in just so you can fulfil this silly requirement. And yes I realise that some people abuse the sickie but why tar everyone with the same brush. Maybe if employers showed respect to their employees and treated them with respect the employees would have work ethics and use their sick leave responsibly.
    Abby
    11th Jan 2014
    10:13pm
    Unfortunately employees feel sickies are part of their entitlement and take them not only when they are sick but for other reasons too.

    If they are genuinely ill not just sick of work they should need to go and see a doctor.
    alfie
    16th Jan 2014
    10:05pm
    Our health system is being abused which is why it is unsustainable. A lot of unnecessary medical resources are wasted and being used on people who don't take responsibility for their own actions. People who hard themselves such as addicts, drunks and others, in my opinion are no different from queue jumpers, because they use our health resources free of charge thus depriving someone else needing treatment. People who are irresponsible and get into harms way should be charged the full cost of all medical procedures rendered and the health fund, if they got one, should refuse to pay for it. People don't really care because they feel confident that the government will look after them. It's time the government puts the responsibility back to the individual person to carefully look after themselves to avoid accidents or unnecessary medical expenses.
    booboo
    21st Jan 2014
    9:59pm
    For those who may care to, look at March in March 2014 on fb…I think there are many of us perhaps who are sick at heart with what is happening to our country…the marginalised get even more marginalised day by day