A Dunlop father whose son had an aneurysm but was reluctant to call an ambulance because of concerns about the cost has spoken out against the $7 co-payment, saying he is terrified people will die because they may be afraid to seek medical treatment.
Bruce Stephenson said he felt compelled to speak out against changes to healthcare funding announced in the federal budget in the wake of his son's medical emergency.
Mr Stephenson works in the community sector and in disabilities dealing with the "poorest of the poor", and says there would a large number of disadvantaged people who would not seek medical treatment if they felt they could not afford the increased costs.
From July next year, previously bulk-billed patients can expect to pay $7 towards the cost of GP visits, out-of-hospital pathology and imaging service. States and territories will also be able to introduce the co-payment for GP-equivalent visits to emergency departments.
Other changes in the budget require patients to pay an extra $5 – or 80¢ if they have a concession card – towards the cost of each Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription.
Mr Stephenson said his 38-year-old son had been ill, experiencing vomiting and dizzy spells, for about two weeks and although he had been to see a doctor, his condition worsened about two weeks ago.
"My daughter rang me and told me, and I said ring an ambulance. She said 'he doesn't want an ambulance because he's going to be charged for it. He's uninsured and he's on a low income and he doesn't want the bill.' I told her not to worry about the money and get him to the hospital," Mr Stephenson said.
Mr Stephenson said his son went to hospital, where it was discovered he had an aneurysm.
"If he had waited any longer, he could have even died.''
Mr Stephenson said it was "outrageous" that people would be worried about the cost of seeking medical treatment.
"I work with the poorest of the poor and these people are going to have an impost on them that they cannot afford because not only will they have to pay for the doctor, their scans and more for medication with money that they either don't have or have very little of, so they're going to have to do without other things," he said.
"My son is lucky because he has a family that would move a mountain for him, but there are people out there who are vulnerable, have schizophrenia, anxiety issues and all these other issues that impact on their finances, on their wellbeing etc. If they have an extra financial burden on them, they're focused on the finance and not their health, and that's the thing that enrages me about this."
Mr Stephenson said he was "terrified" people would die if they were concerned about the cost of seeking medical treatment.
"It should be a right of everybody to look after their health, no matter who they are.
"We deal with vulnerable people on a daily basis and we know how a government financial impost on a person, how damaging that is. Who is going to pay for them not seeing a doctor, for putting it off ... it's going to be more expensive and somebody has to pay."
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