Medicare To Be Capped Wait Longer To See Your GP – Warning – 20 May 1999

Medicare will be capped for the first time under a proposal agreed between GPs and the Federal Government, sparking warnings from a prominent GP that patients may have to wait longer to see a family doctor.

Perth GP, Dr Joe Kosterich, said yesterday: that capping was the same as rationing.

“It means we could end up with a British style system where patients have to wait up to two weeks to see their family doctor because there is not enough money available,” said Dr Kosterich, vice president of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Medical Association.

Dr Bruce Shepherd, chairman of the Australian Doctors Fund also condemned the move.

He said capping Medicare was ” no different to a car insurer saying they cannot fix your car because they are fixing someone elses”.

In exchange for higher fees GPs have agreed to a proposal by the Federal Health Department that the amount of money paid for visits to the GP will be capped at a fixed amount over the next three years.

Payments for visits to the GP will be monitored monthly and if the amount looks likely to blow out by more than $10 million a year over the cap – set at $7.67 billion – GP rebates will be cut.

GP groups negotiating with the government initially rejected the cap but have now agreed following a promise to the Government to take into account blowouts caused by changes in Government policy.

The Federal Minister for Health, Dr Michael Wooldridge, stated in his post budget breakfast on 12 May 1999 at the Sheraton Airport Hotel in Sydney that he was confident of signing an agreement with GPs by the end of the financial year, which would cap Medicare.

“If I am able to sign an agreement with General Practice before the end of the financial year – and I am optimistic that I will be able to do so – from the Commonwealth’s point of view two thirds of the Medicare Budget will be actually capped and predictable.”

Four GP groups – the AMA, the Royal Australian College of GPs, the Rural Doctors of Australia Association – have been negotiating with the Federal Government – have been negotiating a three year financing deal with the Government since last year.

In a letter to members of the AMA’s council on General Practice, sent on May 14 the AMA’s director of general practice Prue Power said the new deal would:

  • give the profession the ability to influence GP rebates ” for the first time since 1986″; and
  • ensure that GP rebates were not frozen or indexed at half of CPI.