Along with apologising comprehensively to the Chinese, yesterday Clive Palmer announced that the proposed GP co-payment was not going to happen. Not one cent, he said. Palmer was effectively saying that as a wealthy country we can afford the health system we’ve got.
Well, I think that there won’t be a $7 co-payment. It’s just media beat up, you know, it’s not going to happen. And, you’ve got to remember that in Australia we spend 8.9 per cent of our GDP on health. In the United States they spend 17.2 per cent of GDP on health, yet 60 million Americans have no coverage.
I’m not sure he’s right about 60 million Americans having no coverage. In my mind it was 40 odd million and that was before Obamacare. fROM MEMORY bout the same number who are ‘food insecure’, that is they aren’t sure whether they will eat tomorrow.
Minister Peter Dutton, however, was saying that we need the co-payment because the health system is unsustainable. In other words, in the government’s view, we need as a matter of social and economic policy the poor to go to the doctor less. However, GP services are recognised as being in the front line as preventative medicine. Ignoring the health welfare of the poor, health policy aficionados question whether the co-payment would not actually cost the system more in the long run.
We can’t assume that the Government actually knows what it wants to achieve with its policy. Laura Tingle finds the government’s position completely muddle-headed and inconsistent.
No matter how much it may now criticise the AMA proposal, no matter how large a hole the proposal leaves in the budget, the government is yet to find its own way through the debate, or even clarify what the actual aim of its policy really is.
Apparently the AMA proposal, the one Tony Abbott personally asked them to put together, eliminated 97% of the projected budget savings. But Tingle says that it dealt with the equity problem and addressed
the very issue the government said it wanted to deal with when it first raised the idea of a Medicare co-payment before the budget.
That is, that those who can afford to make a contribution to the cost of going to the doctor should do so.
It should be remembered, I think, that savings from the GP co-payment initiative would not be used to pay off the deficit. Rather a research fund was going to be established which was going to save the nation, having lost the car industry, and find a cure for cancer. Or something.
Yet minister Pyne can threaten to take the savings out of general university research funding if his proposals re universities are not passed.
This is a government that far from tackling problems in an orderly way as they claim is resorting to ad hoc threats and bullying rather than deliberative policy processes. Part of the problem is accommodating Abbott’s signature policy initiative, the paid parental leave scheme. As Tingle says in this article:
Wherever Hockey, or other ministers go trying to sell the budget, for example, they have to try to explain how its paid parental leave scheme fits with spending cuts that hurt low-income earners hardest.