Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be exempt from any health co-payments to prevent any backward steps in Aboriginal health, said the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) today.
NACCHO Chair Justin Mohamed said the introduction of co-payments for basic health care such as GP visits and medicines, as recommended by the Commission of Audit, would increase barriers for many Aboriginal people to look after their own health.
“Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health remains one of Australia’s biggest challenges,” Mr Mohamed said.
“Increasing barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking appropriate health care will only increase this challenge.
“We need initiatives that will encourage Aboriginal people to seek medical attention and seek it early, not make it even harder for them to get the care they need.”
Mr Mohamed said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders often had a range of complex health issues so even a low co-payment charge could make health care unaffordable for many.
“For people who only visit their GP once a year a small co-payment is likely to be manageable,” Mr Mohamed said.
“However for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with more complex health needs even a $5 charge for each visit would add up very quickly.
“A large Aboriginal family could be out of pocket hundreds of dollars after just a few GP visits.
“This would put basic health care out of reach and be detrimental to the health of many Aboriginal people.
“I urge the government to carefully consider the implications before implementing this recommendation and to ensure any decision is not going to mean a backward step for the health of Aboriginal people.”