A NUMBER of Bundaberg-based pathologies and bulk-billing GP practices have been forced to put up signs to inform patients the proposed co-payment is not yet in place.
The Federal Government's proposed GP co-payment would mean patients paying an extra $7 for visiting a doctor, out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services.
The Family Practice manager Toni Jacobsen said it had put up signs at its practice inside Hinkler Central informing patients the co-payment had not yet come into effect, after patients came in thinking they had to pay $7 to visit the doctor.
"We had a mum and two kids come in thinking they would be up for $21," she said.
"We are concerned that people might hold off and not go to the doctors.
"A lot of people have chronic illnesses where they have to visit the doctor more than once a month."
QML Pathology CEO Melinda McGrath said since the budget announcement, it had instigated a community awareness program to try to reassure patients that it continued to provide its bulk-billed service.
"We anticipated there may be some confusion," Ms McGrath said.
"It is essential that patients continue to test if referred by their doctor and it is concerning that the co-payment may be a barrier to patients testing.
"70% of medical decisions involve lab results, and most cancers are diagnosed using pathology tests."
Mrs McGrath said there were potentially serious outcomes from people avoiding tests.
"If patients avoid testing due to wishing to avoid a co-payment, the impact may be evident years after the implementation," she said.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said there were a number of strong safety nets that had been put in place specifically to help the most vulnerable in society.
"Concessional patients, of whom there are 8.6 million in Australia, will have the number of times they are charged a co-payment capped at 10," he said.
"Ten years ago, we were spending $8 billion a year on Medicare.
"Today it is $20 billion. The government reforms are about ensuring our system remains viable for the decades ahead."