Health Minister Sussan Ley

Whether it’s called a GP co-payment, a value or price signal, or something else, one thing is sure about the $5.00 that was to be added to every consultation fee: the proposal is, to use one of the Prime Minster’s better-known phrases, dead, buried and cremated.

Not that words as definitive were used by Health Minister Sussan Ley, who, at the end of her media release on the topic (3/3/15), said, “It is clear the proposal for an optional $5 co-payment does not have broad support. The measure, including the proposed $5 reduction to the Medicare rebate, will therefore no longer proceed and has been taken off the table.”

The search continues to find another way to reduce the medical aspect of budgetary debt, this time one that has support from medical professionals, the public and enough Senators to pass into law.

For now, “the government that listens” (the Minister’s term) remains in consultation mode, meeting with medical stakeholders across Australia and repeating its commitment to protect Medicare “for the long-term”.

We also want to deliver policies that value general practice and other health professions and the important role they play in preventative health and primary care in this country,” she said.

That’s why I promised to hit the pause button on the Government’s proposed Medicare measures…”

Minister Ley added, “I have taken on board a wide range of constructive views, ideas and concerns about the Government’s proposed measures and Medicare reform more broadly... I am therefore determined to continue consulting on short, medium and long-term options to ensure we can keep on supporting high quality care and treatment as efficiently as possible.”

The key term in this is ‘efficiency’, with Government highlighting how expenditure on Medicare has more than doubled from about $8 billion to about $20 billion over the past decade.

The supposed unsustainability of Medicare was questioned recently by the Senate Select Committee on Health’s interim report on Australia’s health system.

“Since coming to power the Abbott Government has repeatedly called into question the sustainability of Medicare… The evidence given to this committee and documented in this report reveals the fallacy of such claims, particularly with regard to GPs and the Medicare Benefits Scheme,” the cross-party committee said.

Its final report will be released in mid-2016, before the next federal election.