Will Abbott survive Medicare?

Before the recent backflip on plans to cut the rebate for short GP visits by $20 Tim Woodruff made a comment on the plans. There were three parts to the proposed changes:

The first is a direct cut of $5 to the Medicare rebate for everyone except pensioners and health care card holders. The ALP, Greens, and some crossbenchers have indicated they disagree with this so it may never happen as it must pass the Senate.

The second is to freeze the rebate until 2018 which means that because of inflation, this will amount to a $3 cut to the rebate for everyone by 2018. This can’t be stopped as it doesn’t require parliamentary approval.

The third part of the proposal, however, is to reduce by $20 rebates for visits less than 10 minutes in duration. The Government claims that this is intended to reduce “6 minute medicine”…

Only the third of these has been abandoned.

There are two points to be made about this.

First, the Government’s aims have not changed. They want the poor to go to the doctor less to ‘save’ Medicare, or as Woodruff suggests to institute a two-tiered medical system.

The Federal Government wants a two-tiered health system where credit cards decide what level of care one receives. This is the American way. The next proposal may be to replace our flag with the Stars and Stripes.

Secondly, the politics is just awful. As Norman Abjorensen points out, new minister Sussan Ley was sent out to dump proposals that Abbott had robustly defended not 24 hours earlier.

Was Abbott rolled? What does Julie Bishop think? Why did they get themselves into this mess in the first place? Clearly they didn’t sound out the senate cross bench.

Abjorensen says the question now is not whether Medicare will survive Abbott, but whether Abbott will survive Medicare. No wonder he looks worried:


Photographers can be cruel!

Tim Woodruff is currently the vice-president of the Doctors Reform Society and a specialist physician working in private rheumatology practice in Melbourne.

7 thoughts on “Will Abbott survive Medicare?”

  1. I hope Abbott does survive (as leader of the Liberal Party and PM), at least until the next election, because Abbott isn’t the ‘problem’. It’s the whole IPA agenda that needs to be defeated.

    It would appear that Abbott was rolled. But by whom? As I understand it, Credlin and her husband are out of the country, (skiing in the US).

    Certainly the wheels are falling off.

  2. This whole debacle is ideologically driven.. If the Medicare Levy is not collecting sufficient to cover the basic costs due to increasing demand then the correct response is to increase the levy proportionally. But that would fly in the face of their “management” principles,…and rich people would have to pay as well.

    So the LNP response to that is to convince people to toughen up, and not become sick. Or if they do then they either pay their own bills, else….

    One very important point that does not come up in this is that a doctor has only so many hours available for work. That means that a medical practitioner who bulk bills without a surcharge elects to live on a finite income. Many have, and in so doing have accepted a mutual benefit contract of service with the public. This government seeks to smash that contract and relationship apart, for ideological reasons.

    This is not good economic management.

  3. We already have a two tier system. If you have private insurance and are happy to be out of pocket by thousands of $ surgery comes fast. If not……

  4. John, I’ve had rellies who have had brilliant, timely, world class treatment in the public system in Qld. About 18 months ago I had a brother in the Wesley and a brother-in-law in the Princess Alexander. I’d say the after care was slightly better in the latter. The specialist treatment was equally good.

    OTOH hand my daughter had shocking, scandalous and nearly lethal treatment in the public system in Adelaide, in an institution that was meant to specialise in women’s medicine.

  5. So in my experience (three major ops in the last year), private insurance can act as a queue jumping mechanism but doesn’t necessarily come with a significant gap. The last gap for major surgery for was less than $100. The gap for all the specialists in another was in the thousands. However if you’re going to get seriously ill during major holidays being able to get into the private system is very valuable as you can get bumped indefinitely even for high priority operations in the public system as they shutdown parts so people can take leave (even pathology!) but the exact same specialists can still have capacity in the private system. I can see it’s not fair but I’d now never give up private health insurance if I had a choice.

    Level of care between the two systems varies, but I suspect the variability is more hospital dependent rather than system dependent.

    OTOH hand my daughter had shocking, scandalous and nearly lethal treatment in the public system in Adelaide, in an institution that was meant to specialise in women’s medicine.

    If not for the very active lobbying of partner and mother to both the ambulance and RAH there’s a real possibility I’d be dead today. I think it’s a result of cost cutting – ignore lower possibility problems because investigation costs money. Might even make sense financially at the population level.

  6. Chris, there is no doubt the public system is stretched in parts. On one occasion my daughter had to turn up at 6am, but got bumped because of a bungle over scripts. Then she waited all day in pain and nil-by-mouth. At 20 to 7pm she saw the operating specialist, who sent her home but told her that there was a spare slot during the day when she could have been done if they knew she was there. That was Friday.

    She was then told to show up on Monday with a complaint, otherwise she would simply go to the back of the queue.

    The queue was diabolically long, like months, because although in excruciating pain 24/7 her life was not in danger.

    The nearly lethal bit happened later, when she finally had the operation.

    The private system can get clogged too – it’s hard to see a skin specialist here – but I wouldn’t be without medical insurance.

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