Twitter is obviously not long enough for me to say everything, so here is the blog post to get it off my chest in one place.
Two excellent articles were brought to my attention this morning Professor Kerryn Phelps and The Age concerning the proposed $6 co-payment. Professor Phelps gives a great explanation of why it is necessary from the GP side, which I understand completely. GP’s are small businesses, which is overlooked by the consumer entirely, because when they go there, they’re sick and don’t care about the business of healthcare.
So let me demonstrate with a real life budget so that you will see the impact this will have.
After paying for my house, utilities and food for the fortnight I have $120 left in my bank account. $80 is used for travel which leaves $40 disposable income. This usually goes to milk and bread for the fortnight. If one of my children are sick most GP’s bulk bill people under 16 so I don’t worry so much, or I can go to the bulk billing centre and see whichever supermarket doctor is on and hope they care enough, or I can go to the Emergency Department of the local hospital and wait for 4 or 5 hours.
So I choose my GP who I have built a relationship with and knows my family and my children’s needs. But as children’s sicknesses are often unplanned I need to find $6 to take them to the doctor. Hopefully they will still bulk bill without co-payment for my under 16. However I have two over 16 year olds with complex healthcare needs who need to be reviewed at least every 2 months. My GP has been bulk billing me for the majority (but not all) of these consults because they understand my situation (widow with three children) – bless the small mercies.
Now, here’s the kicker I’M WORKING A WELL PAID JOB. (well $57K so probably middle of the road in actual fact but considerably better than health care card holders and pensioners)
How then, will low income families come up with the extra payment? Even double income families are struggling. We buy groceries (yeah food) on our credit cards because there is no money left to eat if someone has to go see a specialist.
I really understand the GP position (I do have a Masters in Health Science – Health Administration after all) and so I can say with confidence that there are other ways to save money within the healthcare system. Taking away the accessibility to it with a co-payment (which will lead to lesser demand on services) does not provide equitable healthcare to all Australians for which we do pay our taxes and expect to be able to see a doctor when we NEED it. Let’s not even start about the dentist!
As for my own healthcare, I had to put off my check up for several months because something else kept cropping up and I didn’t have the money – the kids needed it more. I did eventually go and had some blood tests (bulk billed without co-payment thank God) and was recalled on their results because of my cholesterol – a known factor in more serious (and costly) conditions. So if I continued to “put myself off” I could have happily lived my life not knowing I was in danger of stroke, heart attack, diabetes – our most expensive and debilitating conditions (outside cancer) and every growing in our population.
So what does the government want? Prevention? Then re-direct the funds appropriately. Access? Obviously not as it is restricting access to healthcare (once you’re sick) with the co-payment. Once you’re sick your ability to earn an income to pay for your healthcare is immediately compromised. Yes we would all love to save for the rainy health day, but as you can see from my real budget, there’s not much left for that luxury.
Do I have THE answer? No. As in all healthcare, it’s a collaboration with what we all know to come up with a diagnosis. Medicare locals have been a huge failure and added unwarranted and costly bureaucracy to a system that is riddled with it. Healthcare management is top heavy with middle management, accreditation though necessary is over bearing and some criteria not cost effective to comply with and somewhat academic anyway.
It’s a complicated system. We are privileged to be able to understand and discuss it. Those in our community who need it most are not. We must act to protect those that it serves – that’s why we went into it in the first place right?