No to Abbott's back-door GP tax scam: Socialist candidate

"The Abbott government's proposed back-door GP tax is a massive scam, and should be totally rejected by the whole community," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 2015 NSW state election, said on December 10.

"Today, International Human Rights Day, is a good time to stand up for universal public health as a basic human right. Abbott's proposed cut to the Medicare rebate for doctors still means the beginning of the end of our treasured universal, national public health system, Medicare," she said.

"The fact that the government has been forced, under enormous community pressure, to back off from its hated $7 GP co-payment plan is an important win for people power. It has finally been forced to exclude pensioners and low-income concession card holders, as well as children, from the co-payment scheme.

"But, by reducing the Medicare rebate to GPs by $5, it is effectively making the doctors either take a pay cut, or charge patients an extra $5 for consultations. It is merely a slightly reduced version of the original GP co-payment plan, but now fully administered by doctors and medical centres.

"This new plan is a huge confidence trick on the Australian public. It will still threaten the integrity of the Medicare system, by undermining the high proportion of bulk-billing by GPs that is the core of our national health system," Price said.

A source from the Australian Medical Association described the plan to shift responsibility for medical cost recovery from the government to GPs as “payback” for the AMA's refusal to endorse the original $7 co-payment plan, the December 10 Melbourne Age reported.

Adam Stankevicius, from the Consumer Health Forum, said “the government is turning GPs into its bagmen for the death of universal health care”. Dr Tim Woodruff, vice-president of the Doctors Reform Society, described the $5 fee rebate cut to GPs as a “kick in the guts to working Australians”. “This is clearly aimed at keeping patients away from the doctor”, Dr Woodruff said. "This is forcing working Australians to pay twice for health care, (once through taxes and then through the co-payment), or to not see the doctor. "We doctors don't want patients to avoid seeing us, with what to them might appear to be minor complaints, but are really signs of serious disease. But this appears to be what rich politicians from the government want."

Price said, "The fact that, although some of these changes can be initially implemented through government regulation, they will all face final decision by the Parliament, means that the public campaign against Abbott's $5 GP tax scam needs to be stepped up in the new year. "Doctors, nurses, other health workers, unions, and community groups must unite to build a strong public campaign against the changes to ensure they are either withdrawn or defeated in the Senate.

"Already, the spirited effort co-ordinated by the Save Medicare Campaign, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and other groups this year, has played an important role in stopping the original $7 GP co-payment plan going through. "Now, we need to accelerate our efforts to build an even broader campaign to defeat the $5 GP tax and defend Medicare as a genuine, universal national health scheme into the future”, Price said.