Exempting concession cards holders from the GP co-payment as suggested by the AMA today will not fix what is poor health policy for all Australians said the peak Aboriginal health organisation today.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Justin Mohamed commended the AMA for their efforts to try to protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable but said it wasn’t enough to prevent a backward step for Aboriginal health.
“Aboriginal people have complex health needs and should to be encouraged to attend regular check-ups and see their GP as often as needed.
“There are many Aboriginal people who have very low disposable incomes who might not qualify for a concession card but would find it a stretch to pay any more to see a GP.
“There still exists a massive and shameful gap in the health of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The die earlier, they suffer high rates of chronic disease and they have much higher incidents of poor mental health.
“A concerted effort over a number of years has meant that in some areas, such as child and maternal health, that gap is closing – we are seeing a move to the generation change needed to secure the health of Aboriginal people.
“So why, at this critical point, would the Federal Government consider adding a barrier to Aboriginal people seeking primary health care?
“With a GP co-payment, struggling Aboriginal families are likely to delay seeing a doctor or not see one at all.
“The Federal Government needs to immediately abolish this policy and focus on what they can do to encourage Aboriginal people to use the health care system, not turn them away.”
Justin Mohamed urged the Federal Government to consult more widely on the impact of the GP co-payment and for the Senate to reject it outright.
“The AMA has one view, but there are many others in the health sector who both the Government and the Senate should be talking to about this and the PBS co-payment.
“We would like to see the Government abolish both co-payments altogether or at least have a transparent consultative process so they get a full understanding of impacts of these dangerous policies.”