Media Release

AMA's GP co-pay ideas not the silver bullet

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Exempting Australian concession card holders from the GP co-payment as suggested by the AMA will still leave many older Australians out of pocket and reluctant to seek the health care they need, said leading seniors advocate COTA Australia today.

COTA Australia CE Ian Yates said older people are the major users of Australia's health care system, so introducing a co-payment for GP visits will hit them hardest.

"There will be hundreds of thousands of older Australians who may just not qualify for a concession card, and thus be excluded under the AMA policy, but are still on very low incomes.

"These people are already struggling to meet the out-of pocket expenses for their health care.

"Out of pocket health expenses are already a barrier for older people to visit their doctor with many telling COTA that they delay seeing a doctor, or just don't go at all.

"This is not a discretionary or luxury expense that they can choose to forgoes without potentially serious repercussions to their health.

"Seeing your GP and getting an early diagnosis for an illness or condition is the cheapest and most effective way to manage health.

"It doesn't make any sense to introduce a disincentive at this point for older people to get the care they need.

"What you end up with is a poorer and more intense health outcome for the older patient and a much bigger cost to the public purse when that individual ends up being hospitalised or needing other acute care."

Mr Yates said the public discussion on the GP co-payment without proper consolation with those who it will most effect is causing concern to older Australians.

"Again we are seeing a policy on the table which is being debated through the media and behind closed doors in Canberra.

"It is time for an open discussion with all relevant stakeholders to come up with a better solution to sustainable health care.

"We already have a Medicare levy in place which is sensibly charged to those who can afford it.

"Lets not add another layer of red tape and expense when there are mechanisms like this already in place." 

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Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774

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