Salvation Army spokesman Bruce Redman said the figures could worsen because the federal government had ignored the needs of Australia’s most vulnerable in its recent budget.
An area of concern for the group is the announcement of a $7 fee for GP consultations and increased medicine costs.
‘The reality (is that) 23 per cent of those surveyed for our report already couldn’t afford medical treatment when needed, and 36 per cent were unable to buy medicines prescribed by the doctor,’ he said.
‘The $7 fee might just tip more of them over into avoiding a basic doctor’s visit or essential pathology.’
Hamilton Hill Salvation Army Lieutenant Ronald Stobie agreed, saying many of his customers suffered long-term illnesses and would struggle to find extra money in their already low incomes to cover their medical costs.
Health Minister Peter Dutton said consultation fees would stay at the doctor’s discretion.
‘The Government has retained bulk billing with doctors free to bulk bill patients just as they do now,’ he said.
‘People with concession cards will have the $7 contribution capped at 10 visits to doctors. After that, their treatment should be free.’
Dr Redman said another area of concern was tighter restrictions on Newstart and Youth Allowance payments.
‘People on low incomes are weighing up whether they have the money to see a doctor when necessary or to use the $7 to feed the family that week.’