Medicare changes will lead to higher costs: GP

THE Federal Government's changes to the Medicare rebate have been labelled nonsense by Gladstone GP Dr John Bird.

The government will reduce the co-payment on GP services by $5 for patients who are not concession card holders, retirees, children under 16, veterans or aged-care residents.

The principal of the Gladstone GP Super Clinic said the cut to the rebate would lead to increased health costs for users.

"We are talking about 2% of healthcare costs. The co-payment applies to a small proportion of total healthcare costs," he said.

"Those costs are likely to contribute to increased costs that will be greater than the amount saved.

"Increased costs manifest themselves as increased specialist rebates, hospital costs, costs relating to later presentations, loss of time at work and early retirement due to ill health."

Dr Bird said the economics didn't make sense.

"Tony Abbott has targeted a relatively small number of services with the reduction in rebates but that particular sector currently cross-subsidises those who are bulk-billed," he said.

"Without that subsidy the whole of the bulk-billing system is placed in jeopardy."

He said he was concerned young doctors did not want to become GPs.

"Young doctors and medical students are opting not to do general practice rather choosing to specialise, which will lead to increased Medicare costs," he said.

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said the change to the Medicare rebate schedule encouraged doctors to spend more time with patients.

"The government has addressed the issue of 'six-minute medicine' by encouraging doctors to spend time with patients and providing quality health services," he said.


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