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?