Healthcare becomes unaffordable

Since 2000 Australia’s out-of-pocket healthcare costs have more than doubled, making us, on this measure, the fifth most expensive country in the world. This research was quoted this morning by Greens senator Richard di Natale who warned that the proposed GP co-payment would mean the least well off will be hit the hardest. Senator di Natale also criticised the Medicare safety net for not being sufficiently comprehensive. As payments are only refunded after the patient pays the initial cost, he believes it means many patients are simply deferring a doctor’s visit, treatment or purchase of medication if they can’t afford it at the time. Senator di Natale also shared his concern that, with no upper limit, many GPs may charge in excess of the proposed $7 co-payment, making health care even more unaffordable.

Listen to his interview with Alison Carabine on Radio National Breakfast.

Older patients pay more

It’s official. Australians are now paying an average $1100 per year in out-of-pocket health care costs – those not covered by private insurance or Medicare rebates. And this amount is double what it was in 2000. So if you think you are spending more and more on health, you are correct. And the proposed GP co-payment will make it worse. For some reason, those in power seem to be taking great delight in dismantling what has been the envy of the rest of the world – a highly effective universal health system. You work, you pay taxes, and you don’t have to worry too much if you are unwell, as the health system is designed to cater for all. But no longer. With the proposed co-payment applying to GP visits, follow on tests and prescriptions, some doctor visits may cost $21 or more on the day, let alone follow-up costs. Given that the older section of the population uses health services more regularly, guess where the greater share of the burden will fall? You get it, on older Australians – you know, the ones who’ve paid the most taxes and levies since Medicare was introduced. We did have a great health system, but it is fast following the American model – fine for the rich, not so good for the rest of us.

What do you think? Are rising out-of-pocket healthcare costs just evidence of the excellence of our system? Or are the poor becoming disenfranchised when it comes to health as well? Are you avoiding medical treatment because you can’t afford it?

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