ECHUCA-MOAMA patients won’t have to fork out as much when they visit a doctor after Canberra’s decision to lift the freeze on Medicare rebates.
The controversial freeze, which has been in effect since 2013, will be removed from July next year.
The Federal Government had planned to extend the freeze until 2020 but faced a backlash from the medical community amid concerns patients would continue paying more for appointments with general practioners and specialists.
Echuca-Moama GP Suzanne Harrison was unavailable for comment but last year told the Riv the freeze was a ‘‘co-payment by stealth’’.
‘‘This is not the universal health insurance that Medicare was supposed to be. For many of us doctors, the rebate doesn’t cover the full cost of our service,’’ she said.
‘‘It has been many years since the rebates have kept up with CPI (consumer price index). The inevitable outcome for many practices is they have to charge patients to keep up with costs.’’
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which has more than 30,000 members, led a campaign to pressure the government to overturn the freeze.
Its president Dr Bastian Seidel said it was a step towards re-investing in preventative health.
‘‘If you see your GP early you’ll save the whole community money by staying out of hospital, and receive GP health services that can cost up to ten times less,’’ he said.
‘‘The patient rebate had been frozen since 2013 putting pressure on patients and their GPs as out of pocket fees increased. Lifting the freeze was exactly what the RACGP’s #youvebeentargeted campaign was aiming for.’’
The decision to lift the freeze comes three years after the Coalition ditched plans to charge a $7 co-payment to visit GPs.