Bulk-billing fee 'scaremongering'
No proposal for medicare patients to pay a compulsory fee on bulk-billed appointments has gone to cabinet or is being considered by the government, according to Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop. Nine news.PT0M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31mkn 620 349 January 29, 2014
The Abbott government is distancing itself from a controversial proposal to charge bulk-billing patients a $6 fee every time they visit their doctor.
In the strongest comments made so far by a senior minister about the GP fee proposal, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the government had "no plan for co-payments".
There has been no GP fee proposal to cabinet says Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Getty
The remarks come from the deputy leader of the Liberal Party at the same time as a government backbencher has supported the proposal, saying the charge was not much more than a cup of coffee.
Ms Bishop described the GP co-payment plan, which was proposed to the Commission of Audit by Tony Abbott's former health adviser Terry Barnes, as "scaremongering on Labor's part".
"I'm in the cabinet," Ms Bishop said. "This has never been proposed. This is not before the cabinet.
"It was a submission made to the Commission of Audit by an entity … We have no plan for co-payments".
The idea that the Coalition supported the co-payments plan was "nonsense," Ms Bishop added. Nonsense that Labor had "mischievously, dishonestly, attribute[d] to the government".
The Foreign Affairs Minister was speaking in Brisbane on Wednesday, where she is campaigning for the Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson, who is running in the by-election for Kevin Rudd's former seat of Griffith.
Labor has been attacking Dr Glasson in the campaign for his apparent support for the GP fee proposal, but the former Australian Medical Association president also retreated from the contentious idea.
"I've made it very clear that there is no plan, no plan, by the current Coalition government to introduce a co-payment on Medicare or on bulk billing," Dr Glasson said.
To emphasise his opposition to the proposal, Dr Glasson added that Labor was the only party that had introduced a co-payment on bulk billing.
"They have the history, we don't," he said.
In early January, Dr Glasson had said the GP fee proposal was worth considering. But even then he indicated he had concerns that the policy could increase pressure on public hospitals because patients might avoid seeing their GP and end up in already-crowded emergency departments.
Ms Bishop's comments are stronger than those made previously by the Health Minister, Peter Dutton.
Asked about the GP fee proposal in late December, Mr Dutton told Fairfax Media he would consider "any recommendations" made by the Commission of Audit, adding that the government needed to ensure the health system was sustainable.
Meanwhile, the Liberal MP for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, appears to have lent support to the $6 fee for GP visits.
“I think some people will say well that's too hard," Ms Sudmalis told WIN News on Tuesday.
"But basically pretty much that's a cup of coffee if you go out these days, a little bit more.
"That's not a lot of money to make sure you're covered off with health.”
With Dan Harrison