Figures released today show the Federal Governments proposed $750 million GP tax will hit millions of Australians hard, prompting Hunter Labor MPs to warn that families in the region will be among the hardest hit.
The research, commissioned by the Consumers Health Forum, has found the proposed tax will decrease access to healthcare; see Australians delaying access to healthcare leading to higher costs overall; and that there is no evidence there will be overall cost savings as it will only compound existing problems and further disadvantage people.
Medicare bulk billing figures show that, across NSW, a $6 GP tax will cost patients an extra $251,015,460 each year for primary and in many cases preventative health care.
In the Hunter Region, patients could be slugged more than $21 million next year in new doctors fees, if Tony Abbott breaks his election promise and introduces the new GP Tax.
In local electorates, this adds up to:
Shortland - 79.60% of services are bulk billed, meaning a GP Tax could cost an extra $4,396,224.00.
Charlton - 79.30% of services are bulk billed, meaning a GP Tax could cost an extra $4,308,528.00
Paterson - 78.40% of services are bulk billed, meaning a GP Tax could cost an extra $4,336,110.00
Newcastle - 73.10% of services are bulk billed, meaning a GP Tax could cost an extra $3,886,374.00
Hunter - 72.20% of services are bulk billed, meaning a GP Tax could cost an extra $4,087,536.00
Newcastle MP, Sharon Claydon, said the new tax would hit those who can least afford it the hardest families with children, older people and those most vulnerable in our community.
We need to strengthen our primary health care and that starts with GPs. Dont make it harder for people to see them by introducing this new tax, Ms Claydon said.
Shortland MP, Jill Hall, said under the Howard Government the bulk billing rate in Shortland was less than 60%, a figure that is now up to almost 80%.
If the Abbott Governments GP tax goes ahead, it will erode the benefits of bulk billing which has been so important for so many people. This GP tax is a sickness tax. I will fight any attempt to charge an extra tax just for visiting the doctor, Ms Hall said.
There will also be flow-on effects such as increased visits to hospital emergency units because families want to avoid paying the GP tax. This will not help our public health system and will simply put more pressure on other healthcare services.
Hunter MP, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the Government had hidden their agenda to end bulk billing and break up Medicare.
This was never something Tony Abbott talked about before the election its only now we are getting to see the Liberal Partys true colours, Mr Fitzgibbon said.
Charlton MP, Pat Conroy, said Labor would continue to fight any attempt by the Government to dismantle universal healthcare in Australia.
Local people can show their opposition to the GP Tax by signing the Hands Off Our Medicare petition, which is available at the offices of all Hunter Labor MPs, Mr Conroy said.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australias research paper is available at https://www.chf.org.au/pdfs/chf/Empty-Pockets_Why-copayments-are-not-the-solution_Final-OOP-report.pdf