Central Victorians encouraged to share their experience of healthcare costs

The Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, has today announced she will be hosting a series of community forums to hear from local constituents about their experience with out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

“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.

"I am also keen to hear from GPs, health professionals and Health service providers about the challenges they are facing in delivering primary healthcare across the Bendigo electorate. I expect local GPs to outline what impact the Medicare rebate freeze having on their practice and ability to bulk bill patients.

“During the 2016 federal election campaign, the Coalition criticised Labor’s strong support for Medicare, calling it a scare campaign. But what I know, from talking to people right across the electorate over the last 2 years, is that people are worried about the rising cost of healthcare,” said Ms Chesters.

Last month, Ms Chesters launched a petition calling on the Government to reverse the freeze on Medicare GP rebates and the cuts to bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging.

“The response has been remarkable – people are more than willing to show their support for Medicare,” said Ms Chesters.

Local anaesthetist Dr Jackson Harding believes the GP rebate freeze will inevitably lead to fewer bulk billing GPs and greater out-of-pocket costs for patients.

“The rebate for anaesthesia has barely changed for 15 years resulting in more and more anaesthetists being compelled to charge growing out-of-pocket fees. It is inevitable that an ongoing freeze on GP rebates will force family doctors to do the same.

“While most patients will only require surgery and anaesthesia occasionally, visits to the GP are far more frequent. Primary Health Care is the cornerstone of good medical treatment. Anything that makes this less affordable is likely to lead to people delaying in seeking treatment or seeking treatment from already overburdened emergency departments. Such delays in treatment are also linked to poorer outcomes,” said Dr Harding.

Ms Chesters will be hosting community forums throughout the Bendigo electorate to provide people with an opportunity to share their experience of healthcare costs.