GP critical of fee plan

Dr Richard Choong.
Dr Richard Choong.

The Government has refused to rule out implementing a $6 fee to see a GP in an effort to rein in the health budget, but Dr Choong said it had the potential to put a strain on emergency services.

‘Medicare costs the Government billions each year and they’re trying to save money where they can and probably see Medicare as one avenue to do that,’ he said.

‘On average, Australians see a GP four times a year, so that’s more than 100 million consultations a year and it adds up for the Government. If they think they can move some of that cost on to the patient, it is just disappointing.’

As well as the ‘unintended consequence’ of emergency departments becoming overburdened, Dr Choong raised concerns about the logistics in administering and policing the payment of the fee.

‘Who is going to force the fee?’ he said.

‘I’ve seen no logistics behind it and I think it would be difficult to administer.

‘Currently, with a private bill, the government picks up part and the patient picks up part, but what if you say ‘no, I’m not paying that’? Does the Government pay it? Who forces the patient to pay?

‘I find it hard to take seriously,’ Dr Choong said.

He also said if a fee were to come in, it would eventually become the norm and that if patients needed medical attention, they would be willing to pay.

‘No-one visits a doctor for a minor or a trivial complaint, they come because they have serious concerns about something that needs seeing,’ he said. ‘I don’t believe $6 is a large sum of money by any means, and if you need medical attention you’d probably be willing to pay it.’