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Study finds GP co-payments would affect our most vulnerable

FAMILIES, the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases would be the hardest hit under the Federal Government's proposed GP co-payment, according to a new study.

The University of Sydney study published this week, based on national data captured in the year to March, suggested a young family - classified as one with two children aged under 16 with two parents aged between 25-44 years - would pay an extra $184 more per year on average to access medical care.

Bundaberg mother of two Jess Vine said finding those additional funds for her family could be difficult.

"With kindergarten fees, electricity prices and groceries going up it could be hard to find almost $200 extra per year," she said.

"It can get expensive, especially when you need to get a prescription as well.

"It could have a ripple effect. Will it impact the public health system?"

The government's proposed co-payment would mean patients paying an extra $7 for visiting a doctor, out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services.

Patients with concession cards and children under 16 would pay the GP co-payment on the first 10 visits each year.

The study found a self-funded retired couple without Commonwealth concession cards could expect to pay an average of $244 more each year.

It also found Type 2 diabetes patients would pay an additional $120 or more annually while an aged pensioner couple with concession cards would pay an average $199 extra.

Bundaberg and District Senior Citizens Association treasurer Jean Vane said many people did not fully understand what they would be charged for.

"Most people I have talked to seem okay with paying the $7 per visit to the doctors," she said.

"I'm sure most people think that it is the only $7 fee but don't know about these other charges."

The report's co-author Dr Clare said the study findings backed concerns by medical and consumer groups that medical co-payments could deter vulnerable groups from seeking prompt medical care, and impair their ability to pay for services.

"It will particularly affect people who need to use more medical and related services, such as older people and those with chronic health conditions," Dr Clare said.

"The proposed co-payments regime is likely to deter the most vulnerable in the community from seeking care due to higher costs that they would face."

The GP co-payment faces stiff opposition in the senate from Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party.

Topics:  federal government gp co-payment



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