Terry Barnes, former policy consultant to Tony Abbott and the person responsible for recommending a GP fee to the Commission of Audit, came out yesterday and suggested that payments to carers and pensioners should be increased to soften the impact of the fee. This compensation could come in the form of a “one-off adjustment of $70,” said Mr Barnes.
The Coalition will need the support of either Labor, the Greens, the Palmer United Party, plus other crossbenchers to pass the measure through the Senate. The Greens, Labor and Palmer United Party have continued to strongly oppose the fee. Treasurer Joe Hockey and Health Minister Peter Dutton have both ruled out compromise on the GP fee.
The GP fee is slowly sinking with support from outside of the Coalition almost non-existent. While providing compensation to pensioners and carers is a noble idea, it won’t help pass the measure or provide help to those affected by the fee.
Former consultant to Tony Abbott, Terry Barnes, has it all wrong when suggesting that compensation needs to be offered up to square the ledger for those who are struggling on their current income. As long as there is a $7 fee for visiting the doctor, no matter whether that amount has been covered by compensation, the burden of spending that money will linger in the minds of those who can least afford it and will result in less visits to the doctor.
The only logical solution is for the Government to take the extra step in this matter and to remove the fee entirely for pensioners and carers. While this move may significantly dent the growth potential of the Medial Research Future Fund and push back the $20 billion target from 2022 to a later date, there would still be huge growth potential for the fund.
What do you think? Is the $7 GP co-payment fair? Should pensioners and carers be compensated for the fee or should they simply not be charged the fee? Is the Federal Government being naïve suggesting they won’t negotiate on the fee structure?