The government’s medical fairyland

For the first time in a while, John Carmody returns to the Stubborn Mule with the first of two guest posts. He argues that the government’s proposed medical “co-payments” do not add up.

The government continues to flounder about many details of its budget and part of the reason is a lack of stated clarity about its intentions (although the electors are drawing their own conclusions about those intentions and whether they are fair and honest). The proposed $7 “co-payment” for GP visits is an example of this lack of frankness.

On the one hand, the Government – purporting to be concerned about an excessive patronage of GPs – seems to want us to visit our doctors less frequently than the 6 visits which every man, woman and child currently makes each year (i.e. about once in two months for all of us, an internationally comparable figure, incidentally) . On the other hand, it has, so to speak, attempted to sugar-coat this unpleasant pill by promising that, while a little of that fee will go to the practitioners, most of it will go into a special fund (to be built up to $20 billion over the next 6 years) to boost medical research (and thereby do us all a great deal of good). Neither claim survives scrutiny.

The $2 proposed share to GPs will not compensate them for the extra administrative costs which they will have to carry on behalf of the Government; nor will that nugatory sum compensate for the progressive tightening of the reimbursement of doctors from “Medicare”; so the Government’s share will, to be realistic, need to be significantly less than $5. After dealing with its own extra administrative costs, therefore, the Government will probably only be able to put $3-4 per GP consultation into the proposed research fund. To build that fund up to the $20 billion proposed will require every Australian to visit the GP about 50 times each year – once each week. How this is going to reduce our alleged “overuse” of medical services has not been explained. Nor has how, in practice, it can be achieved. The Government is living in Fairyland.


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2 thoughts on “The government’s medical fairyland

  1. Plunko

    In 2013, the French Government proposed to put a 1 euro co-payment on GP visits in France. The French, rumoured to be the greatest hypochondriacs on the planet, previously enjoyed free GP and pharmaceutical services. Anecdotal evidence was that the frogs were visiting their GPs up to 10 times a day (often just to have a chat)!
    The reaction to the 1 euro co-payment was so widespread, including threats of a national strike, that the French Government then made a press release stating that this might be considered for introduction in 2035. Yair right!!

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