May Budget could bring on the thaw
The Federal Government has given its strongest indication to date it will unfreeze the Medicare rebate in the May Budget.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on March 19 that he was looking at ways of accommodating doctors’ insistence that the freeze be lifted.
“I am very confident, very confident, that we will reach an outcome which is positive for the medical profession, and positive for the sustainability of Medicare, and most significantly, improves patient outcomes,” he told Sky News.
The Minister said he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were determined to work with the AMA to provide long-term support for Medicare and doctors.
He hinted that the freeze could be lifted in the Budget in return for doctors’ cooperation “for ways of making our system more sustainable”.
“More people are accessing doctors, and more people are accessing doctors without having to pay for it, and we’re now working on that long-term plan very cooperatively with the doctors,” he said.
“The way we’re doing that is laying out the approaches which can help strengthen and stabilise Medicare so as we can reinvest funding into the sector, in return for co-operation from the medical profession.”
“…I’m certain that, not just within my portfolio but across the portfolios, we’ll be able to bring down a budget which meets our commitment to strengthening Medicare, and at the same time, achieve the overarching national task of ensuring that we live within our means.
“On the progress that I’ve seen so far, both at the budgetary level, and the progress within the health portfolio, I think we’re able to do both things.”
AMA President Dr Michael Gannon confirmed he had been having frank and open discussions with the Minister, who has no doubt of the importance of the need to lift the freeze.