A study from Sydney University, released on Sunday, has suggested that those aged over 65 will be hit hardest by the proposed Medicare co-payment, amidst growing concerns that the payment could deter vulnerable groups from seeking medical attention.
The study found that a couple living on the pension would face an additional out-of-pocket cost of $200 if the co-payment goes ahead. This is because the $7 fee will apply to GP visits, as well as out-of-hospital pathology and imaging tests. There will also be higher costs associated with prescriptions covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with standard patients paying an extra $5 per script and concessional patients paying an extra 80c.
Sydney University is undertaking an ongoing national survey of GP visits, called the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program, which records details of patient-doctor interactions from a changing random sample of GPs. The study looked at data from this survey to determine who would be most affected by the proposed co-payment.
It found that a self-funded retired couple would expect, on average, to pay an extra $244 per year in health costs. Couples on the pension would expect to pay an extra $199. The average patient with type 2 diabetes would face additional bills of $120 a year regardless of age, and families would pay $38 extra per child under 16.
Study co-author Clare Bayram explained that the most concerning aspect of their findings was that the cost of the co-payment would not be shared equally. “It will particularly affect people who need to use more medical and related services, such as older people and those with chronic health conditions.”
She also expressed her surprise at the size of the financial impact on pensioners. “It really emphasises that it’s not going to be evenly distributed,” she said. “These people need to use the services; they’re not making a choice.”
Read more at The Age website.
One really has to ask: why wasn’t modelling of this sort done before the budget? Why didn’t anyone think, ‘hey, we’ve got all this great data lying around, why don’t we just double check the figures to make sure we’re not screwing over one of our fastest-growing voting groups?’
Or maybe they did check, and they were just hoping nobody else would do the same.
Whether or not the Government was aware of the scale of the financial impact the proposed legislation would have on those over 65 before they made it public, they know now. They have been very thoroughly informed that their budget as a whole, and particularly this piece of legislation, is grossly unfair to lower income groups.
Those paying the highest price are those who can least afford it, and with study after study coming out of the woodwork to prove this point, the Government can no longer claim ignorance. If the $7 GP co-payment goes ahead, it will be because the Government has decided that the unfairly weighted cost to pensioners is acceptable, and that these are not the Australians it wishes to support in the future.
What do you think? Is the Government likely to take this study into account? Or will it push forward in an attempt to save face? And how badly will the $7 co-payment affect you?