POLITICS

Doctors Urge Greg Hunt To 'Lift Freeze' On Medicare Rebates

The AMA has stepped up the pressure on the new Health Minister.

22/01/2017 8:22 AM AEDT | Updated 22/01/2017 8:52 AM AEDT
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The AMA wants Health Minister Greg Hunt to lift the freeze on Medicare rebates.

The peak body for the nation's doctors has taken aim at new Health Minister Greg Hunt, calling on him to lift the freeze on Medicare patient rebates.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said on Sunday that Hunt's appointment as Health Minister provided the Turnbull Government "with the perfect opportunity to change direction on health policy".

AMA President Michael Gannon said with Hunt now at the helm of the prestigious portfolio it meant the "disastrous 2014-15 Health budget" could be consigned to history.

"The AMA agrees with and supports Budget responsibility. But we also believe that savings must be made in areas that do not directly negatively affect the health and wellbeing of Australian families," Gannon said in launching the AMA's pre-budget submission.

"Health must be seen as an investment, not a cost or a Budget saving.

"In this pre-budget submission, the AMA is urging the Government to invest strategically in key areas of health that will deliver great benefits, in economic terms and with health outcomes, over time."

Hunt was announced as the new federal Health Minister last week, replacing Sussan Ley who was forced to step down from the role over a travel expenses scandal.

Hunt was previously the environment minister for three years, and since the July 2016 election has been Industry Minister.

Gannon said Hunt's first task should be to scrap the freeze on Medicare patient rebates, saying it was harming patients a doctors.

The AMA is opposed to the cost saving measure, which means that GPs and other medical specialists will be reimbursed the same amount for providing health services in 2020 as they were in 2014.

"General practice, in particular, is cost-effective and proven to keep people well and away from more expensive hospital care. It was pleasing to hear Minister Hunt use his first health media conference to declare that he wanted to be the Health Minister for GPs," Gannon added.

"Primary care and prevention are areas where the Government can and should make greater investment."

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