Parliament – Medicare

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (19:30):  Medicare is one of the great legacies of Labor governments. It is so important and so critical. A universal healthcare system is really the bedrock of ensuring that it’s your Medicare card, not how much money you have on your credit card, that determines your health care in this country. Unfortunately, in the three terms of the Liberal government they have been actively working against the Medicare system. We will never forget that Tony Abbott ultimately tried to dismantle Medicare by having a user-pays system through his co-payment. The next iteration of the Liberal government attacked Medicare by stealth.

Freezing the Medicare rebate really has meant that out-of-pocket costs in this country have soared. Doctors have had no choice but to charge rising out-of-pocket costs as a result of six years of Medicare freezes. In my electorate of Kingston we’ve seen a 35 per cent increase in costs to see a GP. That is above the national average. We’ve seen people in Kingston shelling out as much as $32.56 to see a doctor. That is a significant amount of money, particularly for families with a number of children who have to see a doctor regularly or for pensioners who have regular visits to a doctor.

People are really alarmed at the increasing costs with Medicare. The government have failed to recognise that, if they deter people from seeing a primary healthcare physician, those people end up in the hospital system, meaning the cost is greater for taxpayers and the impact on that individual’s life is greater as well. This government is only interested in minimising costs to the Commonwealth and does not want to look at the health system as a whole. It doesn’t seem to care.

The biggest blow for my electorate came on 20 January this year. Not only have we seen cuts to Medicare right around the country but the government have decided to put a line on the map that abolishes the bulk-billing incentive payment for my electorate. It means that now not only are average workers going to have to pay out-of-pocket costs but we’re going to see pensioners, children and concession card holders no longer being bulk-billed by this government. This has come as a really rude shock to so many vulnerable families and low-income people who thought that they could still get bulk-billed by their doctor.

Practices have said that they can no longer sustain it. I don’t blame the practices. They have been squeezed and squeezed by this government. This final blow means that they are no longer able to offer bulk-billing to the most vulnerable groups in our community, particularly pensioners. This government should hang its head in shame.

I’ve had a number of constituents contact me. Valerie from Morphett Vale said she had a shock when she visited her regular doctor and had to foot an upfront fee. She said: ‘I would like to know why the government has cut the bulk-billing incentive and why the cut has not been publicised.’ Valerie, I couldn’t agree more. The government have tried in a sneaky way to keep cutting and cutting Medicare. The reason why is that they don’t believe in it. A resident from Reynella told me that he and his wife used to be fully bulk-billed for each GP consult. He said: ‘From January 2020, my GP will no longer bulk-bill my visit, which means, if you include the consult, each script will now cost us $18.50. It used to cost us just $6.60, which was just the medication.’

The government need to front up and explain why they have cut this money to GPs in my electorate. My electorate does not have wealthy families. My electorate has many pensioners and many families doing it tough, and they should not be forking out money hand over fist to get basic health care in this country. This country used to be a place where, no matter the amount of money in your wallet, you could get health care. This Liberal government is chipping away at that, and it is a disgrace. (Time expired)

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