Federal Election 2016: Labor to unveil $12b Medicare rebate freeze rollback, Coalition unmoved

The Federal Opposition will today make the first big-ticket promise of the election campaign and vow to spend $12 billion over a decade to unwind the controversial freeze on Medicare rebates the Government pays doctors for services.

Key points:

Labor plans to reverse its 2013 decision to freeze Medicare rebates

GPs say continuation of freeze will 'starve them of funds' needed to care for patients

Coalition says freeze will continue until 2019-20 under its government

In 2013, the then Labor government introduced an eight-month cap on the amount of money it paid doctors who provided services under Medicare.

The current Coalition Government froze the rebate in 2014.

That decision enraged GPs who said they were being starved of funds they needed to provide quality care.

In this month's budget Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the freeze on indexation for Medicare rebates would continue until the 2019-20 financial year.

That is estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.

But despite the freeze on the rebate, bulk billing rates have continued to grow and are at a high of 84 per cent.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will announce a Labor government would reverse the freeze of Medicare rebates from the start of 2017 and shell out an additional $12 billion over the next 10 years for doctors.

Usually, the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate is indexed and increases a small amount each year.

Proposal 'fully funded', Labor says

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said doctors were worried a continuation of the freeze would discourage doctors to bulk bill.

"That really angered many people and again it's reignited anger amongst, particularly, general practitioners," Professor Owler said.

"The reality is that lifting the freeze is a very big deal [not just] for general practice, but for all doctors and particularly their patients."

Labor's plan would cost $2.4 billion over the next four years and apply to all services provided by GPs, allied health and other medical specialists — but not pathology and diagnostic imaging.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the policy would be paid for through savings.

"We've fully funded our proposal from existing revenue measures including not proceeding with the tax cuts for multinational companies," she said.

Ms King denied Labor was to blame for the freeze being introduced in the first place, despite the 2013 decision.

"This is entirely Malcolm Turnbull's work and we will stop it," she said.

Turnbull says Labor's $12b Medicare promise unfunded

The Prime Minister has pounced on Labor's $12 billion election promise to unwind the controversial freeze on Medicare rebates, arguing it is an unfunded commitment.

Key points:

Labor plans to unwind freeze on Medicare rebates for GP services, other specialists excluding pathology and diagnostic imaging

Catherine King says policy would be paid for through savings

Malcolm Turnbull says Labor has not given enough detail on funding

Labor's plan announced today would cost $2.4 billion over the next four years and apply to all services provided by GPs, allied health and other medical specialists — but not pathology and diagnostic imaging.

The Opposition is predicting the decision will cost an extra $12 billion over the next decade, but those projections go well beyond the four-year budget forecasting period.

Shadow health spokeswoman Catherine King said the policy would be paid for through savings.

"We've fully funded our proposal from existing revenue measures including not proceeding with the tax cuts for multinational companies," she said.

But Mr Turnbull maintains Labor has not provided enough detail to show how individual savings measures will fill the gap.

"With Labor it's the same old Labor, unfunded promises," he said.

"Now over $67 billion of unfunded promises over the next four years."

In 2013, the then-Labor government introduced an eight-month cap on the amount of money it paid doctors who provided services under Medicare.

The current Coalition Government froze the rebate again in 2014.

That decision enraged GPs, who said they were being starved of funds they needed to provide quality care.

Bulk billing rates continue to grow despite freeze

In this month's budget Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the freeze on indexation for Medicare rebates would continue until the 2019-20 financial year.

That is estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.

But despite the freeze on the rebate, bulk billing rates have continued to grow and are at a high of 84 per cent.

Usually the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate is indexed and increases a small amount each year.

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said doctors were worried a continuation of the freeze would discourage doctors from bulk billing.

"That really angered many people and again it's reignited anger amongst, particularly, general practitioners," Professor Owler said.

"The reality is that lifting the freeze is a very big deal [not just] for general practice, but for all doctors and particularly their patients."

 

Source: ABC News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *