The Australian Labor Party’s commitment to completely end the Medicare rebate freeze in its first 50 days of government if elected in the upcoming Federal Election is a sign political leaders are finally beginning to understand the vital role of specialist GPs in Australia’s healthcare system.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Dr Harry Nespolon commended Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for committing his party’s support to general practice, but said a far greater investment in general practice was needed to undo the severe damage the Medicare rebate freeze has had on Australia’s GPs and their patients.
“We are cautiously optimistic that our politicians are starting to recognise the crucial role GPs play in every Australian community,” Dr Nespolon said.
“Today’s announcement by Federal Opposition Leader Shorten is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it does not go far enough.
Dr Nespolon said while Australian GPs will be pleased with Labor’s commitment to ending the freeze on Medicare rebate indexation for 100 general practice items – including family counselling, urgent after-hours care, mental health care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks – there is still more to be done.
“Labor’s Federal Election promise to completely end the Medicare rebate freeze is welcome. But without catch-up funding to reset Medicare rebates, patients will still be paying more than ever for their healthcare. A federal government must undo the damage the Medicare rebate freeze has had on GPs and our patients.
“Australian GPs and their patients need the government elected at this year’s Federal Election to commit to bringing general consultation items to where they would be today, had it not been for the lost indexation caused by the Medicare rebate freeze,” Dr Nespolon said.
“Funding for general consultation items will begin to repair the damage the freeze has had on GPs and make health care more affordable for all Australians.
“The RACGP is looking forward to working with all sides of government to improve Australian general practice and the health of the nation.”