Doctors and patients sickened by Medicare Rebate freeze

THE Medicare patient rebate freeze will devastate many patients, including children and the elderly, and will cut across a range of services, including radiology and pathology, medical experts warn.

Now, in response to the strong feedback from GPs and patients, the Australian Medical Association is running a national campaign to fight the controversial move to freeze the rebate scheme until 2020.

As part of the blitz, posters and campaign materials will be distributed to the AMA’s more than 30,000 members – and will be made available to all doctors and practices around the country.

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, says since Budget night,  the association is being inundated with feedback from doctors and patients concerned over the extension of the Medicare freeze until at least 2020.

“The Medicare patient rebate freeze extension means health care is going to cost more for all Australians, but particularly the poorest, the sickest, the vulnerable, and the disadvantaged.”

The seven-year duration of the freeze is a body blow to patients and to medical practices, he warned.

“The costs of running a medical practice – rents, staff, technology and equipment, indemnity insurance, accreditation – continue to rise year-on-year, and doctors have no choice now but to pass the costs on to patients.”

The freeze will hit all medical specialities — including pathology and radiology — not just general practices, he said.

“This means that patients will face higher costs for their health every step of their healthcare journey – every GP visit, every specialist visit, every blood test, every x-ray.”

The freeze will hit working families with kids really hard as well as those with chronic illness the elderly.

“The Medicare freeze is not just a co-payment by stealth – it is a sneaky new tax that punishes every Australian family,” Professor Owler said.

Professor Owler said the AMA campaign will complement the campaigns of other medical organisations.

Meanwhile,  in another medical story, a new survey reveals nursing is rated the most ethical and honest profession in Australia for the 22nd year in a row.

The  2016 Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey, shows 92 per cent of people see nursing as one of the top regarded professions.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) General Secretary  Brett Holmes, welcomed the public endorsement.

However, he warned many nurses  are under a great deal of pressure from funding cuts and policy changes.

“Despite being in the middle of a health funding crisis, it’s nice to see the public still put their trust in nurses and appreciate the work they do,” Mr Holmes said.

“It’s a difficult time for nurses, who have been dealt a heavy blow in the past year with $57 billion in cuts to health, $650 million taken from Medicare bulk-billing incentives and significant funding and staffing structures to be removed from aged care.

“All this is making it much harder for nurses to care for their patients.”

And he condemned a recent decision to cut the number of registered nurses on duty in aged care centres in NSW.

“Less than two weeks ago our nurses were hit with more bad news when the NSW government advised of its intention to remove the requirement to have at least one registered nurse on duty 24/7 in aged care facilities where there are residents with high care needs,” said Mr Holme.

“In tandem, the federal government cut $1.2 billion in funding from nursing home residents with complex needs.. Both these changes are a recipe for disaster.”

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