The Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, was today joined by Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King as she continued her Medicare community forums in the Macedon Ranges.
Ms Chesters said the forums currently being held across the Bendigo electorate are providing local constituents an opportunity to speak out about their experience with out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
“So far we have held forums in Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maldon and there are some common themes and concerns being raised.
“Overwhelmingly people are concerned that older constituents simply aren’t going to GPs and specialists because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses. One participant said that it costs $8.50 per visit for allied health services after the Medicare rebate and that adds up to about $200 per month. As a pensioner on a fixed income this participant struggles to find this money. Another said the upfront fee for an x-ray is about $80 and that’s the difference between eating and not eating for a week.
“At these forums we have also heard from GPs, health professionals and health service providers about the challenges they are facing in delivering primary healthcare across the Bendigo electorate. From listening to local GPs and their patients the Liberal Government’s Medicare rebate freeze is starting to have an impact on the ability to bulk bill patients.
“Some participants said they are now asked about their employment status, how many children they have and other questions to help front counter staff determine what fee they will be charged for their GP consultation. It’s no longer the case for many practices across the electorate that all patients are bulk-billed. Others said that if they wish to ask their GP about a 2nd health issue, they needed to make a second appointment.
“I’m not surprised by what we are hearing but it is extremely worrying.
“In the last three years Medicare has been under attack. The Abbott-Turnbull Government has tried to introduce a GP co-payment, frozen the Medicare rebate paid to GPs and cut funding from diagnostic services such as x-rays and blood tests.
“What we are learning through these forums is that local people are scared about the rising cost of primary healthcare and the impact the Liberal Government cuts are having on their families and community,” said Ms Chesters.
Ms Chesters hosted forums in Kyneton and Woodend today and over the coming weeks, residents in Eaglehawk, Elmore and Heathcote will also be given the opportunity to share their experience of primary healthcare and out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
“My goal is to table a report in Parliament before the end of the year outlining the findings of these Medicare forums and call on the Health Minister to increase funding to Medicare and primary health care services,” said Ms Chesters.