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Health safety net ‘a must’

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AMA President Dr Michael Gannon has declared that the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged must continue to have ready access to care, whatever changes are made to Medicare and health funding.

While acknowledging that the Federal Government was facing funding constraints, Dr Gannon said the AMA would fight to protect universal access to quality primary health care and make sure health care remained affordable.

“When we talk about universal healthcare, what we mean is that everyone gets treatment, and we must have that,” Dr Gannon told radio 2GB. “We must have that safety net so that people of limited means are looked after, and people even of means, people who have money in the bank, when they face serious health problems, that they don’t go bankrupt having them dealt with.”

Though the Federal Government shows no signs of backing down from its controversial policy to extend the freeze of Medicare rebates to 2020, the AMA President warned that it needed to preserve those aspects of Australia’s health system that made it among the best in the world.

“We do have a health system that’s the envy of many other parts of the world,” he said. “We’re better than the American system, where tens of millions of people literally can’t access health care. And we’re better than systems in many countries in Europe which are basically bankrupt because they’ve promised for too long that you can have everything for free.”

Dr Gannon said the balance between public and private systems was a major strength of Australia’s health care.

“I can tell you that we’re miles in front, especially of the British health system. One of the things which works really well, it’s not perfect, but we’ve got a private system where people then spend more of their post-tax dollars in the health system. What that does is increases the total value of the health system,” he said. “It is very easy to point to failures of public hospitals, they’re not perfect; but…I think we do pretty well, and I think that both sides of politics are not far off the health system that’s the envy of the rest of the world.”

Adrian Rollins

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