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Full brunt of Medicare co-payment revealed

Posted July 7, 2014

The Federal government’s proposal to introduce co-payments for services provided by GPs, pathology and imaging providers, together with a proposed increase in co-payments for medications will mostly affect vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions, a new University of Sydney study reveals.

Published today, the study findings back concerns by medical and consumer groups that medical co-payments could deter vulnerable groups from seeking prompt medical care, and impair their ability to pay for services.

“The introduction of co-payments won’t be shared equally,” says the report’s co-author, Dr Clare Bayram.

“It will particularly affect people who need to use more medical and related services, such as older people and those with chronic health conditions.

“The proposed co-payments regime is likely to deter the most vulnerable in the community from seeking care due to higher costs that they would face.”

The new study findings are based on national data captured in the year to March 2014.

The data are sourced from a continuous random survey of general practitioners’ records of GP‐patient encounters.

Examples of the average annual additional cost to patients of introducing co-payments for services provided by GPs, pathology and imaging providers and increasing medication co-payments are listed below. These are conservative estimates.

• A young family (2 children aged <16 years, 2 parents 25‐44 years) would pay an additional $184 more per year on average.

• A self‐funded retired couple (aged 65+ years, no Commonwealth concession cards) would pay an additional $244 per year on average.

• An older couple (aged 65+ years, pensioners with concession cards) would pay an additional $199 per year on average.

• An average patient at a consultation who has Type 2 Diabetes would pay an additional $120 per year. One-quarter of these people would pay an additional $150 or more per year.

Federal government health data from 2011-12 shows that up to 13 per cent of people in some parts of the community delay GP care or do not seek it due to cost issues, and that this barrier is most marked among disadvantaged groups.

Furthermore, increased costs for medications due to the proposed increase in medication co-payments are likely to increase the proportion of people not filling necessary prescriptions.

Federal government health data from 2012-13 shows that 8.5 per cent of people reported that cost was a barrier to filling a prescription. This was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and for patients in the most socio‐economic disadvantaged areas.

Source: University of Sydney

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