Budget 2016/17: Medicare rebate freeze to cost patients

Patients could end up paying dearly for GP consultations.

doctors medical billing plans

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) yesterday joined forces with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to try and push the Government to end the freeze on Medicare rebates paid to GPs, medical specialists and pathology and radiology services.

The initial freeze, which means that rebates paid to service providers do not increase with inflation, was implemented in 2014 and, in Budget 2016/17, was earmarked for extension to 2020. The RACGP was the first to react on day one of the federal election campaign by calling on its 30,000 members to display posters in practices, as well as speaking to patients about the issue.

AMA President Professor Brian Owler said that the freeze would ultimately lead to patients paying more for services as GPs implemented new or higher co-payments to cover the costs. This would deter people from seeing their GP and would result in more people requiring expensive hospital treatment. "We know that there's good evidence to say some people will not see their doctor, that they will defer having treatment," Prof. Owler said.

"It's also more likely that they will end up in hospital needing more expensive hospital treatment."

Noting that GPs had until now covered the rising costs, Prof. Owler stated that this couldn't continue as rising staff costs, rents and indemnity insurance meant that practices were becoming financially unviable.

"The Medicare freeze is not just a co-payment by stealth, it is a sneaky new tax that punishes every Australian family," he said.

"The medical profession is united in its efforts to put an end to the Medicare freeze and protect patients."

Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg, said that the freeze on increasing the rebates was necessary to ensure that funding to other areas of the health system could continue. "It is being continued because we're ploughing the money into many other areas of the health system, including the Turnbull Government's recent announcement that more than $2.9 billion additional [funding] will be put into public hospitals," he said. "Bulk-billing rates are now reaching historic highs at 85 per cent and more money every year is being put into Medicare.”

Read more at ABC.net.au 

Opinion: Spiralling health costs not the only problem

Visiting the GP can be stressful for many and the added worry of how you are going to afford to pay for that consultation is unnecessary and unfair. Having had its GP co-payment well and truly rejected by the electorate, the Government has simply shifted the onus to GPs who should be concerned about giving their patients the best possible care, not balancing the books.

Not only will practices have to increase costs and introduce new billing structures, they could potentially start to pick and choose which type of patients they treat. If a GP can charge a full-fee paying patient $70 to $80 for a five-minute consultation, why would they have a list full of bulk-billed patients for whom they can only claim $36.30 each? And woe-betide any patient who has complex medical needs and requires longer or more frequent consultations for they may soon find themselves ‘struck off the list’, figuratively speaking.

Of course, no GP would stop seeing a patient based on cost. It’s unethical, but when considering whether or not to accept a new patient, cost factors must surely start to come into consideration. GPs, like any other service provider, have to have a business plan and if that plan doesn't stack up financially, it either has to be changed to generate more revenue or the practice has to call it quits.

And this is the danger, especially in rural areas where health services may already be difficult to access. If GPs start to move their practices to more affluent areas or pick and choose their patients, who will treat those who are less ‘financially attractive’? It will mean that they may have to travel further (incurring costs) and wait longer to see a GP, which could prove costly in more ways than one.

Do you pay to see your GP? If so, how much are you charged? If bulk billed, would you pay a fee to continue this arrangement or would you try and find another doctor? Have you ever avoided visiting a GP because of the cost?

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    16th May 2016
    11:13am
    Whilst what you have written is understandable Debbie the real issue is that GPs are over servicing. Many tests should NEVER be performed as the nation needs to use resources better. Currently it is open slather and that is where our health care system is falling apart: tests on tests for those who want to feel good about their health rather than pursuing something which goes wrong. Also, it is long overdue that people like smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts are not aided in bleeding the system dry for their life style choices.
    Doctors need some control. The current open slather is not sustainable. And if doctors need some legislative assistance to avoid litigation for not sending patients for a whole myriad of unnecessary tests then so be it.
    Something has to give!
    Retired Knowall
    16th May 2016
    12:30pm
    Register for a MYGOV account and link to medicare. Set up your myhealth account and you will get a clear picture of how the medical profession is milking the system.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:34pm
    Got one. Never use it though. How will one get a clear picture?
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    12:53pm
    Gee MICK you're being a bit harsh on those who choose to do something which is perfectly legal ie, smokers*, those who have an illness ie, alcoholics and those who have an addiction ie, drug addicts. And you might also provide some proof that GP's are overservicing. My GP sends me for x-rays when he is unsure of what is causing my pain because, I assume, he cannot see inside my body. He also sends me for blood tests once a year to check for those illnesses that my age group is more susceptible to. I am grateful that he is smart enough to know where his area of expertise ends and where he needs to get assistance to make a diagnosis.

    *Here's a comment by Senator Lehjonhelm on smoker's and the associated costs to the budget.
    “Your generosity to the nation’s treasury is truly staggering. The government collects around $8 billion in tobacco excise each year. That’s a lot of cash. Last year, smokers imposed $318.4 million in net costs on Australia’s healthcare system. Depending on rainfall, smokers also cost the taxpayer about $150 million a year in bushfire control.”
    KSS
    16th May 2016
    3:27pm
    Retired Knowall, There are very very few GPs who are actually using the MyHealth website to post their patients medical records. Mainly this is due to real concerns for accuracy, privacy and confidentiality of the information posted.Therefore any data you may be drawing your conclusions from is suspect to say the least.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    4:23pm
    All you have to do is open a MyGov account and link your medicare number to it. You can then go in and see what all your doctors and specialists have billed medicare and you over the last 3 years or so. You will be surprised what your doctors get paid for.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    5:24pm
    A different perspective Old Man. Question: what is the cost of medical services attributed to smokers? And then the costs to society with people dying with cancers during their working lives?
    I do not have the figures but would be most interested in learning if my suspicion is correct or otherwise.
    Last, we get a lot of folk post on this website complaining about not getting treatment because of smokers, druggies and alcoholics tying up the system. Perhaps this is of merit as well.
    Sorry if I am a bit tough at times. Right and wrong has always been at the core of my value system and it appears that those who should be on the end of the queue are, because of chronic illnesses, getting to the front.
    johninmelb
    16th May 2016
    5:31pm
    Retired Knowall, just checked my Medicare account on MyGov.

    Nothing there about medico's rorting the system.

    I think you may be logging into some fake website.

    Of course, unlike you, I have a legitimate Doctor who doesn't overservice, and doesn't give pills because you ask for them. Most patients don't want to see him because of that.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    6:02pm
    I have been asked how to set up a MyGov account.

    Go to https://my.gov.au/EnrolService/enrolService.htm?_flowId=enrolment-mg-flow&_flowExecutionKey=e1s1

    Once you have set it up link your medicare number to it.There is linking symbol to do this.

    Click the Medicare card image to get into medicare.

    Click History & Claims and then click on Medicare Claims History.

    You can access up to 3 years.
    ex PS
    20th May 2016
    10:05am
    It's easy to criticise doctors for over servicing, I'm sure it happens, but why does it happen?
    Maybe because there are a lot of people out there who would see a case of a docter missing something as an early retirement plan. We see it all the time, a doctor doesn't order a test because they have no clear indication of a particular problem, someone dies or is incapacitated because of the resulting illness. What do most people do, they go and see a lawyer, who can blame a doctor for being overly cautious?
    They can't win, they are either accused of over servicing or not caring, it all depends on the oputcomes.
    tj
    16th May 2016
    11:23am
    Debbie how wrong can you be ? You infer that the current govt. is responsible but you conveniently omitted the fact that it was in fact the previous socialist govt. froze the rebate. Obvious where your allegiances are and that is fair enough but please keep your leftie views to yourself. Thank you
    .
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    11:27am
    If I only had $1 for every right wing troll comment I have read over the past 2 years I'd be a millionaire tj. Please come in with your comment above when that happens. It would be appreciated.

    Debbie: does tj have a leg to stand on?
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    12:17pm
    Sadly for your comment MICK, tj has a leg to stand on and the dates given in this article are very misleading. The freeze was announced by the Gillard government in their May 3 budget 2013.

    Here is a link; http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/campaigntrail/2016/05/15/labor-still-coy-on-medicare-rebate-freeze.html
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:35pm
    Will have a look Old Man. I do note that this is from SkyNews....a Murdoch business so expect to see the normal sort of unfactual reporting. Will let you know.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:37pm
    Old Man: just read geomac's account below. Is this correct?
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    3:28pm
    Yes MICK, and a check of the 2013-14 budget shows that there is a reference to the "forward estimates" which leads me to think that the freeze may have been planned for 4 years and this theory stacks up with the expiry date of 2017. Seems that the naughty Coalition just didn't undo Labor's freeze.
    Reeper
    16th May 2016
    4:22pm
    Some people don't like to be wrong; calling people Trolls for writing the truth; in my book Mick owes Old Man an apology and Debbie needs to review how she addresses her audience - keep your politics out of your articles or have someone who can write balanced stories.
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    5:04pm
    Well Reeper, you may be right but I'm not standing on one leg waiting for MICK to apologise. As John Wayne said in The Yellow Rose Of Texas "Never apologise Mister, it's a sign of weakness". Personally I think it's a sign of good manners.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    5:31pm
    I agree with that Old Man and I almost always apologise when I am shown to be wrong. I was asking for clarification above so please be civil.
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    5:42pm
    MICK, I have shown you proof that Gillard placed the freeze on, I have directed you to the budget papers that show the freeze was until 2017 and your take on all of this was to ask Debbie if tj had a leg to stand on and refer to an unsupported statement from geomac.

    With respect, you have the proof and a check of my posts doesn't show any uncivility although my sarcastic streak may have raised its ugly head above the parapet. I find your comment that you "almost always" apologise. Am I in the "almost always"?
    roy
    16th May 2016
    8:27pm
    Hey Old Man, try not to get too upset with the rudeness of MICK, you should realise by now that he knows everything and is never wrong, MICK for PM and Australia will be Utopia.
    He is a dear dear boy and we are all trolls and bigots or on drugs.
    Anonymous
    18th May 2016
    9:04am
    No Stan, you and Old Man and Frank are all very charitable souls who are happy to donate $11 billion a year to the IRS in America, and to see Australian pensioners and working class families shafted to foot the bill. I hope the US people are suitably grateful for your generosity with other people's money!

    $11 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Enough to fund fair pensions to those who have been screwed over by this cruel LNP 4.5 times over. Enough to preserve Medicare and fund education properly. Enough to substantially reduce Australia's burgeoning debt, instead of GROWING IT by gross mismanagement.

    Oh, perhaps you tunnel-visioned right-wing LNP supporters didn't understand the company tax cut? You really should educate yourself. Here's a hint. Check out the company tax rate in the US and our tax agreement with them.

    I hope you got your thank you card from the IRS?
    ex PS
    20th May 2016
    10:39am
    I think you will find that the LNP, instead of removing the freeze extended it. They also tried to add a health tax by making the poor pay cash for every visit, thankfully the Independants put a stop to it.
    Anonymous
    21st May 2016
    8:33am
    That's right, exPS. Labor did impose it. But they also fixed a time limit and are now committed to ending it. Thus far, the LNP are saying it has done little or no harm. Maybe it's done some good. But extending it threatens our health system. And what is really scary is that we know the LNP wants to destroy Medicare. They have tried all manner of ways to reduce bulk billing and introduce user-pays to the health service. So how can we trust them to have considered the risks attached to extending the freeze.

    Labor acted responsibly, and is continuing to do so. The LNP is acting selfishly, in the interests of the well to do and against the interests of the nation.
    Rosscoe
    16th May 2016
    11:34am
    Here's a leftie view, tj! This useless federal government reduced my part-age pension by 21%!
    Sooner it gets voted out the better! Malcolm Turnaround hasn't got a clue how to run a government!
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    12:48pm
    I think Turnbull is right. We can no longer afford to pay welfare to $millionaires.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:55pm
    Agreed Frank. And we cannot afford to let the rich escape the tax system or move their profits to offshore no tax shelters either.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    6:16pm
    I agree Frank if people have had their pension reduced then they either have too much money or earn too much money.
    Anonymous
    16th May 2016
    7:48pm
    WRONG AGAIN, BONNY AND FRANK. It has NOTHING TO DO with millionaires. People with considerably less than half a million to last them possibly another 30+ years, with failing health and increasing expenses, are being deprived.

    A few fools believe the lies about ''welfare for millionaires'', but actually the welfare for millionaires continues (owners of multi-million dollar homes for example, and folk who gifted millions to their kids and now have their kids pay all their bills while they live high on the hog on a full pension!). It's honest the battlers who can't earn enough to be self-sufficient who are being stripped of their lifestyle unfairly, and there is not a single other group of Australians who have been required to suffer anywhere near as much as the group who, having already lost half their income through falling returns, are now suffering cruel deprivation of pension entitlement (and YES THEY ARE ENTITLEMENTS! These people paid a high price, and planned according to the law and government recommendations. It's not their fault a fraudulent government stole their contributions to what was a very healthy retirement fund.)
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    9:03pm
    That's precisely why more needs to be done to stop these millionaire pensioners. Some people will do anything to get the pension. I can never understand why myself.

    I really don't believe anyone is actually suffering as the people effected have their capital to spend. I see families every day that are suffering more than these people as these families barely live from week to week without any capital to fall back on for emergencies and are then at the mercy of payday lenders. The only thing these pensioners or soon to be non-pensioners are suffering from is that they will lose their nice to have extras for the pokies or a more expensive holiday.
    Anonymous
    21st May 2016
    8:38am
    Bonny, you have demonstrated both your ignorance and your self-serving greed repeatedly.

    It's not even worth arguing with a narcissist. They have no logic. They have no common sense. They are incapable of empathy. They are incapable of rational thinking.

    You are plainly too STUPID to see that forcing a nation of savers to erode their capital and rewarding people for being irresponsible is DUMB POLICY that will drive taxes up. Only an idiot would support it. Sorry to insult you, but you really do go too far with your self-serving attacks on people less fortunate than you, and your grossly irrational untruthful bigoted nonsense.

    NOTHING you say is based on fact. It's all political propaganda fromn BS artists who peddle slick slogans to excuse incompetence and corruption. And you endorse it because it's unfair to others, but it serves your selfish personal interests.

    YOU JUST DON'T GIVE A HOOT for fairness, decency, or sound economic management to build a stronger nation.
    Mike
    16th May 2016
    11:50am
    It is estimated that there will be an increase in the informal vote as many people will reject the major 3 parties, the lying cheating rorting snout in trough Liberals, the inept and turned their backs on the working class Labour, and extreme left wing Greens. I say don't vote Informal, don't waste your vote, it wont make much difference. There is an alternative. The Nick Xenophone team.
    Retired Knowall
    17th May 2016
    7:49pm
    Beware the Spelling Nazis.
    Tom Tank
    16th May 2016
    11:53am
    This is really just the continuation of the Libs declared intent back in Whitlam's day of dismantling Medibank, as it originally was, and now under its revised name of Medicare.
    Such a public health system is anathema to the right wing thinks tanks, such as Institute of Public Affairs, who seem to exercise tremendous influence on Liberal Party thinking and policies.
    Our health system, while far from perfect, is still pretty good. One area that needs to be sorted out is the tendency for people to go to A & E at public hospitals with issues that should be dealt with by a G.P. I have friends, now retired with multi-million dollars in super, who always took their kids and themselves to A & E with colds and flu's etc.
    KSS
    16th May 2016
    12:18pm
    Anyone turning up at A & E with a non-emergency should be charged in full for the consultation. And made to wait until all others have been dealt with. And that includes parents with kids with a runny nose!
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:30pm
    Whilst I agree with you KSS there are people who do not have a razoo in their pockets and are unable to go anywhere else. So what do they do?

    Thanks for the contribution Tom Tank. This government has made it pretty clear that it would like to avoid both universal health care and public education. And yes they have not yet cut either loose but they are fiddling around the edges to get this started. A matter of time if voters put the bastards back.
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    12:31pm
    I agree with part of your post Tom Tank and it's the part about using A&E as your local doctor. The only way around this is to charge every person attending, regardless of why they are there, a fee similar to a doctor. If the attendance requires hospitalisation then the fee may be refunded. I also believe that the names of all subscribers to any health care fund should be given to every hospital as some attending to A&E claim they are not in a fund to get free treatment.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    6:50pm
    All Australians are covered by Medicare so we are all entitled to be treated under Medicare. It is each individuals choice where they stay a medicare patient or elect to be a private patient. You can be a private patient without belonging to a health fund. You health insurance is between you and your fund so it is up to you whether you use it or not. The hospital cannot access your private health insurance without your consent.

    Your private insurance does not cover you until you are admitted to hospital so it is of no benefit to A&E.
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    7:20pm
    Bonny that's right. Some people pay $20,000 pa to Medicare some pay nothing, but we are all covered.
    Anonymous
    21st May 2016
    8:44am
    And some still can't afford the care they need because of stupid rules made by dumb idiots who don't live in the real world.

    We may be all ''covered'', Frank, but we are NOT all ''covered', because Medicare discriminates against people with certain health needs, certain treatment preferences, and in certain geographic areas.

    In the end, it comes down to the doctors and specialists available in your area and how greedy or caring they are. And a bit of good luck is involved too. If you have condition X, you get medicine at around $7. If you have condition Y, you pay $280. If you need a doctor or surgeon, you might be allowed a dozen visits (if needed) at concessional cost. If you need a physio or psych or dietitican, you might only be allowed 6 or less visits. And of course if you need a Naturopath or other alternate health provider, forget it completely.

    What a messed up system we have! But never fear. The LNP will make it better. They'll freeze Medicare payments so we can't afford the treatments that are currently available. Then those who need other treatments won't be able to complain of unfairness. We'll all be screwed equally!
    Supernan
    16th May 2016
    12:14pm
    Our GP'S bulk bill still. It makes their accounting system simpler, quicker & takes less staff to run the Practice. We would not change Drs if they find they have to bulk bill. But what seems unfair is that you have to go to your GP to get a script for a drug you have taken for years & need to continue to take. So if we have to pay just to get a script, they need to look at some system allowing scripts to last longer. Also Specialist referrals.
    missmarple
    16th May 2016
    1:35pm
    I agree Supernan about a visit for a script and referrals, but I recently changed Dr's because where I was attending charged even if it was a follow up for tests or a procedure, but where I am now Pensioners are bulk billed, and my specialist has worked with my new GP and has highly recommended her
    carmencita
    16th May 2016
    12:27pm
    I guess the real issue is that it is easy for this government to take out any services for the general public. What do they care? They are just there to pass the time until they get their millions in retirement. It is a common knowledge that Liberal policies favours businesses and the rich. Our health system as it is is a univeral system that serves the rich and the poor. The US under Obama is trying to change theirs to make it universal as well. Are we going backward?
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:33pm
    And the well off in the US are screaming 'economy meltdown' in their efforts to avoid subsidising the dirt poor so that these folk do not die on the streets. Having been to the US numerous times I cannot but feel for most unfair first world nation on the planet. Never believe the rhetoric about 'the land of the free'. It's BS designed to make the disenfranchised feel good and not rise up.
    Anonymous
    21st May 2016
    8:29am
    We are headed in that direction, Mick. That's what scares me. We will become just like the US if the LNP has it's way.
    geomac
    16th May 2016
    12:35pm
    tj
    While you castigate Debbie you yourself conveniently omit to say that Labor froze the rebate for nine months only. The coalition made that freeze for four years and has now added a further two.
    If you do not like the article because of your views accusing the writer of being a lefty is groundless, more so when you then misrepresent what has happened. Labor 9 months temporary freeze and coalition 6 years, 4 plus the added two.
    Old Man
    16th May 2016
    3:30pm
    A check of the 2013-14 budget shows that there is a reference to the "forward estimates" which leads me to think that the freeze may have been planned for 4 years and this theory stacks up with the expiry date of 2017. Seems that the naughty Coalition just didn't undo Labor's freeze.
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    12:43pm
    The medical profession must be milking this dry for Labor to introduce this freeze. Usually they don't mind paying for votes with our tax dollars. I cant see either party changing it after the election. I did hear Turnbull say that Susan Ley has reached an agreement with Pathologists to continue bulk billing.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    12:59pm
    No Frank....the medical profession just got a very nice tax cut from their benefactor Malcolm Turnbull and his government. You know as well as I do that doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc. mostly have trading names. They are SMALL BUSINESSES!! So they will get a great cut whilst those who earn under $80,000 pa get tax increases.

    "Milking this dry"? Liberal not Labor. Get the facts straight rather than print the party propaganda Frank!
    Anonymous
    16th May 2016
    8:40pm
    Yes Mick, and it was a lawyer who publicly announced that tax cuts DO NOT generate jobs or growth, because they will be used to offset personal taxes and therefore to make the business owners richer.
    MICK
    17th May 2016
    10:27am
    Correct. And then big business and the real rich get their cut of the pie as well. It's a Turnbull led casino.
    Anonymous
    18th May 2016
    8:59am
    But actually, the IRS in good old USA has just exposed something, Mick, that politicians didn't tell us.

    The company tax cut gave the IRS an $11 billion p.a. windfall at the ATO's expense!

    Yep, that's right. We have just GIVEN the US government $11 billion a year by cutting company taxes in Australia. They were already collecting 5% of the 30% tax US companies in Australia pay. Now they will collect 7.5% of the tax. Foreign investment will grow? Bullshit! There will be more people employed? Bullshit!

    US companies will NOT get a tax cut. They will pay the same as before - 30%, as is the legislated rate in the USA. They will pay our rate here, and the balance there. The US was already collecting a handsome amount from the operation of US companies in Australia. Now they will collect $11 billion more! And this gift is being paid for by the poor struggling Australian working families and battling retirees. I hope the IRS is grateful!

    If this is ''good economic management''', heaven help us if we ever see ''bad management''. I'll take Swan's or Bowen's management in preference, thank you. It couldn't be worse!
    Supernan
    16th May 2016
    12:50pm
    Surprised how politically biased people keep raking up long past issues ! Read the policies, think about the last 2 years & vote on what they have done for you !

    If you really want to head to the past, go right back ! Labor was created to stop the wealthy exploiting the workers. The LNP was created by the wealthy to allow them to protect their wealth from the poor. So it helps big business, developers, millionaires. The Greens exist to protect the Environment & keep some natural areas from exploitation by the rich.

    Thats what the parties aim for. Yes they get it wrong & make mistakes. But basically their aims stay the same.

    Yes I usually vote either Labor or Green - the LNP has never done anything to help our parents, ourselves or our kids improve their quality of life. Certainly the last couple of years have been the worst of our lives for having to fight for rights to live a modest comfortable lifestyle.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    1:02pm
    I venture to ask which side of politics always dredges up the past Supernan?
    I sort of know the answer given my confrontations with Frank and a couple of other trolls who work this website but better maybe coming from somebody else. I do know what you are talking about and thank you for bringing to everybody's attention. Ta.
    Tom Tank
    16th May 2016
    1:50pm
    Whilst I am in general agreement with your comments re the different parties agendas it pays never to lose sight of the past.
    History tells us a lot but certainly many statements by politicians, especially at election time cannot be trusted.
    When I refer to history I mean the overall trend over the years.
    Both ALP and LNP have swung to the right and I believe that Robert Menzies would be turning in his grave to see how far the Liberal party have moved. He would not allow really conservative people into HIS Liberal Party.
    In my opinion we can only look at the overall thrust of a party's intention and ignore the posturing and the financial gestures that are made. Then it comes down to trust and that is when we can get really disappointed.
    roy
    16th May 2016
    1:52pm
    The troll word again MICK well done dear boy, when do the strikes and the boats start, any idea dear boy?
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    2:22pm
    Yes Superman, I can understand you not wanting to talk about the past and to keep the past to no more than 2 years. There are any rusted on Labor/Union voters who would share that view. It was a time when I was truly ashamed to be an Australian. We had people dying in the hundreds because of government policy. Whether in the roofs of houses or on the sea. What a disgrace! You are right to try and block it from your memory but I cannot! I want to be assured that it does not happen again.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    5:06pm
    Frank/stan: you crack me up. Readers must be wondering what drugs you are on.
    So now it is " We had people dying in the hundreds because of government policy." Pink batts? Ha, ha, ha. How far back you going to go to find some nonsense to post?

    The current conversation is about the last few years under the current government. Readers know what this lot have done...and what they intend to do if re-elected. Not pretty unless you are wealthy or in the (Party) foal. So maybe you are ok Frank. But then you are on a parliamentary pension, so no worries.
    roy
    16th May 2016
    8:18pm
    If you argue or disagree with MICK, you are either a bigot a troll or on drugs, strange isn't it?
    Why is that dear boy?
    I'm beginning to think you may not make a good PM after all.
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    8:23pm
    1200 dead MICK. That is a serious failing by the Labor government of which Shorten played a lead roll.
    What a disgraceful excuse for a government that was, and would you believe there are idiots who want them back in????
    I don't like this question but I need to ask it on this occasion......
    WHY???
    Anonymous
    16th May 2016
    8:37pm
    Frank, I can point to dozens of needy pensioners who ended years of suffering the cold by getting pink batts installed. Many couldn't afford heating or cooling, and gained huge benefit from insulation.

    It's unfortunate that some installers were inept, and it's unfortunate that there wasn't better government control, but the program was highly beneficial to countless thousands, and there were NOT ''hundreds'' of deaths. There were FOUR.

    Actually, the failure of the scheme says a great deal about the free market system the LNP so favours. It evidences the greed, selfishness, and lack of respect of businesses who happily take advantage of any opportunity for profit, with no regard for workers or customers. Funny, this is the same sector the LNP claims are so ethical and need to be given more freedom and lower taxes to reward their ''enterprise''. The LNP is constantly demanding fewer restrictions - less wage regulation, and end to union power to enforce safety regulations, etc. The most surprising thing about the pink batts scheme is that LNP policy failed under Labor management.
    Adrianus
    17th May 2016
    9:13am
    That is proof that you and MICK only read what you want to read Rainey. No where did I say that hundreds of people died installing pink batts. Everyone knows that there were four and that's four too many in my opinion.
    The Rudd government had as its focus to provide jobs for unskilled labour. There are certain jobs that the unskilled can do with training and safety precautions and there are other jobs which can be carried out with very little training.
    I watched the RC and was disgusted at the off the cuff remark by Rudd. "I don't know anything about pink batts, I'm not a handyman those screwdrivers in the shed belong to Therese."
    This from a Union Government?!

    THE 1200 DEATHS WERE AT SEA. LABOR HAD NO ANSWERS. THE SIGHT OF THE TEARFUL HANDWRINGING GOVERNMENT MPs IS ETCHED IN MY SUBCONSIENCE.
    I AM PSYCHOLOGICALLY SCARRED FOR LIFE!
    MANY OF THOSE WHO DIED MAY HAVE BEEN GENUINE REFUGEES. THERE WERE INNOCENT CHILDREN AMONGST THEM! FOR GOD'S SAKE WHERE IS YOUR COMPASSION???
    MICK
    17th May 2016
    10:29am
    It must be tiring logging off and then logging back on as a different user Frank. At least you are no longer posting under my name.
    Anonymous
    20th May 2016
    8:28pm
    That's it, Frank. When you can't argue logically, CHANGE THE SUBJECT! Don't EVER admit that Labor might have done some good in some areas, or that my comment that there weren't hundreds of deaths from the insulation scheme could be correct. Just divert the discussion.

    As for deaths at sea - terrible, but far from entirely the fault of any government. These people take to the sea. They take huge known risks. I feel great sympathy for them. It's sad that their lives are so bad that they feel the risks are justified. But they do take risks and sometimes those who take risks suffer bad consequences.

    The refugee problem is huge, and nobody knows how to solve it. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. The wisest statement I've heard thus far is that we should send them all back where they came from because only the strong get out, leaving the weak to suffer unprotected. The only hope for their country is for the strong to stay and fight. That's easy to say too, and not nearly as easy to do. But there is no magic bullet. The LNP has no answers either. It's NOT a political issue. It's a human issue. All of us grieve the misery. None of us has a valid fix.

    As for there being innocent children among them... that's sad. It's always dreadful to see children suffer. But is it any worse than our own native-born children enduring hideous suffering? Maybe life has hardened me, because as a child I survived trauma and crisis and pain nobody should endure. And my partner suffered even worse. And nobody cared. And nobody today cares about the terrible ongoing pain and suffering that those who endured what we endured suffer for the rest of their lives. It never ends. It never goes away. It passes down to the next generation and wounds them.

    Who cries for the 18 year-olds who the LNP sent to die or to suffer permanent disability or lifelong mental torment in war. Who cries for their orphaned children who grow up in poverty as a result? There are so many wrongs to grieve. And they are not wrongs by politicians of one colour or another. They are wrongs of humanity. And when we stop progressing the interests of politicians of a favoured colour, disregarding their evils, and start focusing on objective analysis of what can be fixed in our world, we might light a candle of hope at last.

    Stop bashing Labor and those who speak against your precious LNP and start THINKING about what is wrong and what can and should be changed. Neither party is any better than the other. But right now, LNP policies are hurting battlers way too much, and they are NOT growing the economy. We've proved trickle-down doesn't work. We've proved neoliberalism promotes inequality and social unrest. It's time to end it. There's no ''good'' option. We are faced with a choice of evils, but it's clear which evil is the greater.

    And just a final thought, Frank. If we allow inequality and injustice to continue, it will be our people dying at sea as a result of running from hell. We can't keep on blaming the battlers and handing out riches to the wealthy. We need some equity and empathy at home.
    MITZY
    16th May 2016
    2:38pm
    Debbie: Re your questions: Its hard to believe that bulk billing doctors' rates are now reaching historic highs at 85% as stated by Josh Frydenberg?!
    I live in country NSW and if I wish to travel up to 50 kms away from where I live I can find a bulk billing doctor. However, it costs me more in petrol travelling to and from my residence than the extra cost I pay to visit my GP who is 10 minutes away from my home.
    I am a single full aged pensioner and fortunately don't need to visit my GP too often, but each time I do, it costs me $24.95, i.e. doctor's charge is $62, Medicare rebate $37.05 - cost to me $24.95. The medical representation for doctors indicates that their costs are going up for the services they provide, the people they employ, their rents etc. etc. However, I've never seen a doctor driving a 2000 Nissan Pulsar like I do? Which incidentally I purchased second-hand four years ago for $4,500. I doubt the validity of doctors' costs for rents and wages as the majority of people on salaries and wages have not had a decent pay rise in a long long time. Doctors and others who are renting properties in which they conduct business are probably not having rental increases as they used to get. I have two friends in business close to where I live and their rents have not increased in the past four years due to the uncertainty of the times and the aftermath of the GFC. Many owners of the rental properties are happy not to charge because they could be faced with losing their tenant. In fact Australia used to be at the top of the tree world-wide for salaries and wages and conditions and I read in one of the newspapers a few months back that we are dropping down the ladder quite quickly. We know who is winning, its the doctors of course as well as the dentists, radiologists, pathologists, etc. They all cry Peter Wolf.
    KSS
    16th May 2016
    3:24pm
    Mitzy whilst what you say may be true for you away from the major centres, it is certainly not true from those in larger regional and metropolitan areas. I know being a business owner is a dirty word on this site and all business owners are out to diddle their employees and keep all profits for themselves, but GPs ARE small businesses with all the costs that that incurs. They pay salaries, they pay employee superannuation, they have overheads and running costs, their professional insurance costs thousands as does on-going education, rents in Sydney have escalated in recent years for example but the Doctors' earnings have effectively been frozen. There is real concern that many GPs who currently bulk bill all or most of their patients will be forced to ration that bulk billing. Who continues to get it remains to be seen.

    Of course there are those doing very nicely, just as there are pensioners doing very nicely too. But to blanket judge on the basis of occupation is as silly as judging all pensioners by some other cherry picked criteria.
    Rae
    16th May 2016
    3:34pm
    Very true MITZY. We are in deflation and prices should be going down. Saving rates and interest are down. Wages are down.
    Rents are down.
    Medical costs should be down too.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    5:13pm
    Great post MITZY. So true.

    KSS: you are not correct. Being a business owner and making above average money is never a dirty word. There needs to be a bit of reward for risk and hard work. Where it gets up the noses of average people is when businesses are very successful and very profitable and the owners take the position that they should be exempt from the taxation system. I applaud those who make a motza as long as they do not join the very long gravy train to cheat the rest of the nation in the process. The tax scale is there for all and dishonest schemes which avoid liabilities is what the real issue is as well as Liberal governments who refuse to fix what they fully understand is allowing the rich to dodge their liabilities.
    It's not jealousy KSS. It's disgust. There is a big difference.
    MITZY
    16th May 2016
    5:41pm
    KSS: We have had this same discussion in the past. So we agree to disagree. Yes, GP's are small businesses and they have already had a tax cut and if the Coalition is returned, they will be getting another tax cut. My doctor, the last ten years, has increased his fee to me by $1 or $2 per year. None of the doctors in my area wish to take on one more patient, most practices have closed their books for patients. He goes on holidays in January and as I have my annual check-up in January each year I am aware it is costing me a little more. However the disparity widens due to the Medicare rebate being frozen both to the doctor and to me and many others. Some of us are lucky enough to be bulk billed and some of us are not, like me, we have to pay more. GP's in the areas you speak of if they do not bulk bill would be charging more for their services to cover their costs. Doctors are not in the business to work for nothing or little. The years of their endeavours in learning their skills entitles them to run at a profit after all they still have to feed their family and pay their mortgages. That's why I find Frydenberg's statement that 85% of doctors are bulk billing? Even where I live in country NSW the doctors who do not bulk bill have varying charges. A timed short visit varies from $58 to $75. Why? My doctor is one of four all housed together and sharing the costs equally for their employees and rents etc. Two years ago I had a gastroscopy/colonoscopy and had to go for a pre check-up with a doctor who would be my anaesthetist. I was bulk billed for this visit because of my pension status after being told I would be charged. On the wall of the surgery was a whole lot of different charges to perform different services and basically this practice charged two different fees for this pre check-up, one for pensioners (small discount) and one for normal patients. When I was advised I would be charged I indicated that my cousin (also a pensioner) had not been charged some few weeks earlier, and this practice then waived the fee. This practice also had another sign on the wall indicating "This practice does not bulk bill, this practice is a private practice. This practice works for you not the Government". However these practices do receive government funds for their services and in country areas they also receive extra funds for locating to where many other doctors refuse to practice.
    I wasn't cherry picking I was sticking to the subject matter health/medicare/doctor and responding in part to the last part of Debbie's statement where she asked for our experiences.

    I don't consider being a business owner a dirty word or that all business owners are out to diddle their employees, I've worked in public service (taxation office - first job) multi-national organizations, medium and small business and even where I worked for one man only (a barrister and chartered accountant who only had six clients (all multi-national or high-worth individuals needing tax advice nationally and internationally) plus we did the preparation and changes to the old Butterworths Income Tax Law & Practice and the CHH upgrading changes brought about by legislation in Parliament to tax laws. I loved my work and the people I worked with but unfortunately it all ended too soon (at 55 years) due to my husband's advanced MS. Small businesses and large businesses are not in business to employ people, they will rid themselves pretty quickly of any excesses. Businesses only employ people because they grow and they just can't handle the volume of work themselves. Any downturn in the economy for whatever reason, the owner sneezes and the employees catch the cold. Doctors and other health professionals are no different.
    Anonymous
    16th May 2016
    7:57pm
    You are absolutely right, Mitzy. No business hires more people or invests more because they got a tax cut. They respond to demand. If demand is falling, they cut production and staff. There is simply no point in expanding a business to produce goods or services that nobody is buying.

    Demand for medical services will fall with rising costs and less bulk billing, and that might be a good thing if over-servicing was happening, but this is one area where falling demand potentially means higher long-term health costs (due to failure to diagnose and treat conditions early) and more deaths.

    The government claims bulk billing has not decreased due to the freeze. Odd! I'm seeing practices everywhere put up signs saying they can no longer afford to bulk bill. In the town I live in, 3 practices that bulk billed everyone now only bulk bill pensioners. All specialists bulk bill aged pensioners only.

    We WILL have more serious health complaints, more hospital admissions, and more deaths as a result of the government's cruel ''GP tax by stealth'', and since the electorate expressed it's wishes clearly on this issue, this is a total betrayal of the trust of voters.
    Adrianus
    16th May 2016
    8:00pm
    I agree with KSS on this one.
    MITZY I've got a question for you?
    Why is our Health Budget growing at 3 times the rate of the increase in the population?
    MITZY
    17th May 2016
    5:34pm
    Frank: I'd be here for several days answering your question, as you well know.
    If you would like to enlighten us all here with the answer to your question, then please feel free to do so.

    There are too many areas and layers in each health group.

    Just a few come to mind off the top of my head such as our ageing population and the health care expenditure being much higher in older age groups.
    I read somewhere a few years ago that people reaching 85 years the expenditure was almost 20 times higher than for children aged 5 to 14.

    Development of new technologies (all costs health); pharmaceuticals and diagnostic techniques.

    Even the state of the economy adds to the health bill - people get sick when they can't get jobs and their mental health suffers.

    Take the military fighting in wars - and the border control problems we have, the suffering from wounds, amputations, mental disorders such as PTSD.

    Frank go for it, add another 50 shades of grey to your question.
    MICK
    18th May 2016
    8:55am
    MITZY: not worth getting worked up with any of the posts from Frank, stan (new) or Bronny. They are trolls working the site to attack Labor. There is an election coming!

    Frank of course chooses to throw mud whilst he is fully aware that the health budget is growing for no other reason than diagnostic treatments and the aging of the population which is accompanied by more and more illness. Quite obvious to an other than the simple minded.
    Rowena
    16th May 2016
    3:43pm
    I am a disability support pensioner with chronic genetic health conditions for which I need continuous medications in order to have any quality of life. Despite the financial strain of paying for consultations, I continued going to the nearest medical practice after they stopped bulk billing two years ago, to stay with a doctor I trusted and who knew my decades long medical history.

    This year the practice brought in a new rule that repeat scripts could no longer be requested over the phone and collected from the practice (for a fee of $10). Instead, patients must make an appointment every time they need a script, effectively more than doubling the price for a script. Apart from questions of ethics and wastefulness (when a check-up is not needed, only medications for an unchanged ongoing condition) I simply cannot afford this, and have had to find another practice that still bulk bills. It's further away and more difficult to get to, and is the only practice anywhere near where I live in that bulk bills.

    If this practice decides bulk billing is no longer viable (they have already moved premises to cut rent costs), I and people like me in vulnerable situations through no fault of our own will be left with nowhere to go within our very limited means. While public opinion is often whipped up to focus on the well-to-do fleecing the system or doctors overservicing etc, those in real need are left in ever-deepening crisis by governments driven by uncaring and unsharing ideologies.

    It's time for a quantum leap in human consciousness, that goes beyond partisan politics, and prioritizes ethics and compassion over money and power. The future looks bleak for people like me otherwise.
    MITZY
    16th May 2016
    6:32pm
    Well said Rowena: I hope the future for you is not bleak as you surmise and our politicians do the right thing soon in making the tax system more equitable so that more funds can be directed to health and education especially. Every person living in this country who pays their fair share of taxation is contributing part of their hard earned salaries and wages towards health and education and other important areas. These are the backbone people of the nation the PAYE lifters. It is criminal that so many others (and they know who they are) pay little or nothing and yet have the same access to services that you and I do. When I worked for so many years and paid tax every week I never begrudged where my taxes were distributed too. Today I pity the current PAYE taxpayers, GST payers and all ratepayers alike as they see their hard earned taxes and moneys squandered by governments and councils feeding their own pockets.

    My husband eventually was a disability pensioner (MS for 24 years before he died) and I the carer. It's not only the cost and convenience of having your doctor close at hand, there are so many other costs surrounding you. If you don't have a partner/husband/carer etc to assist you, you end up with lots of other costs for taxis and/or community transport some of which are subsidised but still cost you money. Then there is your medications you have to purchase and depending on your incapacity other pharmaceutical products and the like.
    When you go on a pension because of a disability or for some other reason you are means tested either for your income or your assets. You don't automatically receive a full disability pension. To me there are "pensioners", "part-pensioners" and then there are "other pensioners". Seeing as we now have so many "haves" and "have nots", genuine disability pensioners and pensioners with no savings due to their circumstances should really be assessed by Centrelink and given a special card for their doctor/dentist/optician/pathologist/specialist etc. to bulk bill them always.
    We are all cogs in a wheel, so to speak, and unfortunately for some they puncture or the wheel's spokes fall out and you suffer, but for others the wheel belongs to the Rolls Royce of bicycles of which its name eludes me at present.
    Rowena
    18th May 2016
    3:08pm
    Thanks Mitzy. I hope for a more equitable tax system too, up to the highest levels, which could solve all budget problems. As it's now 'out there' that trillions of dollars have been and continue to be siphoned away from nations worldwide using tax havens, politicians can no longer excuse turning a blind eye and making life more difficult, impoverished and stressful for those who can least afford it.

    "..genuine disability pensioners and pensioners with no savings due to their circumstances should really be assessed by Centrelink and given a special card for their doctor/dentist/optician/pathologist/specialist etc. to bulk bill them always."

    Yes! Great idea, and surely not too hard to implement.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    4:19pm
    It is simply ridiculous that my GP costs me more than my specialists. My specialists bulk bill but my GP charges me. If I agree to have my GP give me a referral for free physio etc then I am bulk billed. I don't have to use the physio. Surprisingly my GP agreed to give indefinite referrals for all my specialists so I rarely see her now. All tests are bulk billed.

    Yes I know how the medical profession is milking the system and why my GP does the above from what is listed in myhealth account under MyGov.
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    4:24pm
    It's medicare not myhealth under MyGov.
    MICK
    16th May 2016
    5:17pm
    Specialists bulk bill? I'd like to see that. Whilst I rarely ever go to a specialist I have never heard of any who bulk bill. Sounds like coalition spin to me Bonny.
    If you really care about the system being milked then require people who routinely use the system to have a desk audit to establish if they are really sick or not. And then require any overservicing doctors to do the same. It should soon became clear what is going on and if action needs to be taken or not.
    Anonymous
    16th May 2016
    7:50pm
    I have suffered risks because I can't afford specialist treatment. Specialists in my area bulk bill aged pensioners only - not other pensioners or CSHC holders.

    And since the Government's announcement - which they claimed would NOT reduce bulk billing - our local GP practices (3 of) have stopped bulk billing for anyone except pensioners.
    roy
    16th May 2016
    10:02pm
    MICK for health minister, yeah.
    LiveItUp
    18th May 2016
    12:19pm
    All my specialists bulk bill me and I don't have any health care cards. I rarely see my GP as there is nothing much she can do for me. I don't take any poisons so don't need any prescriptions.
    Anonymous
    20th May 2016
    8:09pm
    Well then, that's all fine selfish Bonny. Doesn't matter about anyone else, as long as Bonny is okay. We got that!
    Sevi
    16th May 2016
    9:34pm
    Bonnie, Thank you very much for the info, regards, Seviour
    LiveItUp
    16th May 2016
    9:58pm
    No problem. I've set up quite a few MyGov accounts for people over the last year or so. Some are easily others are very frustrating. Had one where the person had not used their medicare card and it couldn't be linked until they saw a GP.
    Pass the Ductape
    18th May 2016
    5:55am
    Health professionals etc., are no different to greedy tradespeople whose attitude to making money is to charge whatever they can get away with - whether they're worth it or not..... Then complain bitterly when Mr and Mrs (Ms) Average Australian goes cap in hand to ask for more money to pay for their own services, (whatever it might be) in an effort to help cover the cost of the exorbitant charges demanded by these 'professional' people in the first instance. No sympathy for greedy health professionals at all! It might be they'll just have to get used to the idea that a world trip every year could be cut back to one trip every two years instead!

    18th May 2016
    8:52am
    Look, you selfish people -- wake up! The nation can't AFFORD free medical care. We have just reduced company tax rates to GIFT $11 BILLION A YEAR to the US Government to help them reduce their multi-trillion dollar debt. Now, how can we afford Medicare when we are making donations like that to poor foreign nations?

    Don't get it? Well, think about this. Our company tax rate is MUCH lower than the 30% that applies in the USA (and lower than applies in many other countries). The LNP says we cut our tax rate to attract more foreign investment. Most foreign investment is US companies. Under tax agreements, these foreign companies pay the tax rate that applies in THEIR country, not ours. But they only pay our tax rate to our government. They pay the balance to their own government.

    So, a US company used to pay 25% to the ATO and 5% to the IRS. Now it pays less to the ATO and more to the IRS, giving the IRS an $11 billion per year windfall, at the expense of Australian taxpayers.

    Now do you understand the company tax cut, and why Medicare is no longer affordable?
    Pamiea
    21st May 2016
    11:20am
    I have been seeing the same Dr for over 27 years. He informed me yesterday he is cutting back to one day a week. Yes I will wait to get an appointment if not urgent as yes I will pay a contribution if necessary.


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