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Heard on the hustings

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“We need to control the way we spend the health dollar within the limited means we have, to enable us to have the funding to put new drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme” – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explains why the Medicare rebate had to be frozen until 2020.

“I understand for doctors that the GP freeze has been difficult and I appreciate their working with us. I have said to doctors that I want that freeze lifted as soon as possible, but I appreciate that Finance and Treasury aren’t allowing me to do it just yet” – Health Minister Sussan Ley says the rebate freeze extension isn’t her doing.

“Nobody wants to head down the same path as America when it comes to our health system. We will reverse Mr Turnbull’s cuts, which will reduce bulk billing and hit Australian families every time they visit the doctor” – Opposition leader Bill Shorten makes the first big announcement of the election campaign, unveiling Labor’s $12.2 billion plan to restore Medicare rebate indexation from next year – to be paid for by axing company tax cuts and the new baby bonus.

“What happened in 2011 was a previous Government” – Bill Shorten ducks responsibility for Labor’s decision to freeze Medicare rebates in November 2013.

 “The Government is shifting its responsibility from providing health care services back to the hip pocket of patients. It is inevitable that, under the freeze, out-of-pocket expenses are going to rise. Labor’s policy protects the Medicare rebate. It actually supports and cements one of the most important factors in our Medicare system, and that is its universality” – AMA President Professor Brian Owler welcomes Labor’s announcement.

“One thing that I’m pleased about is that the many medical practitioners who are out there, on the first of July, they will get a company tax cut, those who are operating in those structures, but also those who are in unincorporated structures” – Treasurer Scott Morrison argues the Government’s company tax cuts will offset the hit to doctor incomes from the Medicare freeze.

“Bill Shorten and Labor can’t pay for their health spending promises, and what they can’t pay for they will never deliver. Bulk billing rates remain higher under the Coalition than Labor. Many GPs are also small business owners and employers, and the Coalition’s 10-year enterprise tax plan will benefit them directly” – Sussan Ley.

“The issue about the Medicare systems is the payments. It’s not actually about the doctors’ incomes. And certainly, the cost pressures that doctors are experiencing in their practices have nothing to do with tax cuts. It has to do with the rising costs of staff, leases, equipment and all of the things that go along with that” – Professor Brian Owler says the Coalition is missing the point.

“To be frank, on the current rebate we make less than $1 per consultation, which doesn’t provide for the renewal of fixed assets. You get by day-to-day but you don’t have the capacity for future provision” – Dr Rodney Beckwith, who owns a medical practice on the NSW central coast.

“At this stage, the black hole of unfunded promises keeps on getting deeper and darker” – Malcolm Turnbull tries to shift the focus from health to financial management.