POLITICS

Doctors Ramp Up Fight Against Medicare Freeze

Patients are set to pay more for GP visits, doctors warn.

14/05/2016 2:11 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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The Australian Medican Association (AMA) has stepped up its fight against the federal government's Medicare patient rebate freeze, kicking off a national campaign against the controversial measure.

The hold on Medicare rebates was extended in the May Budget until 2020 and some doctors are concerned the move will force general practitioners to charge patients instead of bulk billing.

AMA President professor Brian Owler said the doctors' campaign would run through the election campaign.

"It is true that many practices have been absorbing the effect of the freeze. But the ongoing freeze has meant that we have reached a tipping point," Owler said on Sunday.

"Practices are realistically not going to be able to absorb the freeze any longer."

The AMA said it was flooded with feedback from angry and concerned doctors and patients since Budget night, building on years of disenchantment with the rebate freeze.

"Patients will pay more for their care, and the viability of many medical practices will be under threat as the freeze stretches out to seven years," Owler said.

The campaign -- with the hashtag #nomedicarefreeze -- will feature posters and campaign materials being distributed directly to all AMA member practices, and being made freely available to all doctors and practices across the country.

Bulk-billing rates for GP services are said to be at a record high of 84.3 per cent and have continued to lift by around 1 percent each year even after the freeze began in 2013.

The Medicare rebate covers only about 50 per cent of the consulting fee recommended by the AMA, according to news.com.au.

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