Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Out-of-pocket Expenses in Australian Healthcare

COTA Australia is the national policy vehicle of the eight State and Territory Councils on the Ageing (COTA) in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.

COTA Australia has a focus on national policy issues from the perspective of older people as citizens and consumers and it seeks to promote, improve and protect the circumstances and wellbeing of older people in Australia. Our submissions always incorporate the views of our members developed through various consultation mechanisms.

COTA welcomes the Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into out-of-pocket costs in Australian healthcare. This comes up from our membership and older people more generally as a key area of concern. For the last federal election we convened an election panel or around 900 older people and access to affordable and quality health care came up as the number one area of concern.

Since the media discussion on Medicare and PBS co-payments started we have had a steady stream of people contacting us with details of their out of pocket expenses and what these payments have meant to them in terms of access to healthcare, and to their more general quality of life. It is clear that many people are fearful of any increase in out of pocket expenses through co-payments, or reductions in the level of subsidy for MBS and PBS.

This submission will provide comment on how the trend in out of pocket costs is already affecting older people’s ability to access health care, concerns regarding the current proposal to increase these costs, and our recommendations for addressing the ongoing sustainability of the health care system.