The peak Aboriginal health organisation is urging the new Federal Health Minister to talk to Aboriginal people about the negative impact of any GP co-payment on Aboriginal health.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Lisa Briggs said NACCHO welcomed the Minister’s decision not to proceed with the cut to the Medicare rebate for short visits but remained concerned about her stated commitment to the co-payment.
She said NACCHO was also writing to Federal Senators to ensure they understood how a copayment could jeopadise the small gains being made to improve the health of Aboriginal people.
“Almost every politician, no matter what side of the fence, has at some time committed to close the appalling health gap between Aboriginal and other Australians,” Ms Briggs said.
“They all know the dire statistics – Aboriginal people fare much worse than other Australians against all health indicators and it’s going to take a generation to turn it around.
“There are a complex array of potential solutions to improve Aboriginal health but top of the list has to be accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate health care so any ailments or risk factors are picked up early and addressed.
“Adding a co-payment is just not going to help encourage Aboriginal people, particularly those on low incomes with high risk factors, to seek the medical help they need until they become acute.
“We urge the Minister Ley, and all Senators if it comes to that, to consider if the co-payment will advance the health of Aboriginal people and if the answer is no, as we believe it is, then to abandon it.”
Ms Briggs said Aboriginal people were already less likely than other Australians to visit a doctor with MBS expenditure showing that Aboriginal people average much less that non-Aboriginal people.
She said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services were also concerned about the impact of the co-payment on their ability to continue to deliver the same level of service.
“Our services are making huge progress in helping Aboriginal people to have longer and healthier lives.
“A co-payment puts them in a very difficult position. They either start to charge patients, which they know is likely to deter them from coming again, or absorb the ‘optional’ co-payment and take it as a hit to their bottom line.
“Either way it’s Aboriginal people and their health that loses out.
“With demand for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services growing rapidly, more funding is needed, not less. We need policy and investment that will support our efforts, not hinder the progress we are making.”
“We look forward to working with Minister Ley, alongside Minister Nash, to deliver the best outcomes for the health and wellbeing of our people.”