The consumer group says that although the introduction of a GP co-payment was expected, when combined with increased payments for medicines, some households will struggle to cover basic health costs.
“If you are one of the 80% of Australians who go to a bulk billing doctor, you will pay at least $7 per visit from 1 July 2015.
“Importantly, the new co-payment will not be limited to GP services—it will also apply to services like pathology and x-rays.
“These changes will also hit people who already pay to see their doctor, because the Medicare rebate for standard GP consultations will be cut by $5, which will inevitably be passed on to consumers.
“To compound the hip-pocket impact, consumers will also face higher costs if they are prescribed medicines, with the maximum cost of a PBS medicine going up by $5 from 1 January 2015—to $42.70
“Consumers will also have to pay more before they reach the safety net that provides cheaper medicines—most consumers will now have to spend almost $1,600 on medicines before they hit the safety net.
“All together, the GP co-payment, cuts to Medicare rebates and changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payments and safety net amount to $4.8 billion over 5 years that will effectively be transferred to household budgets.
“For individual consumers, these changes mean that for one bout of illness, you could be hit with a number of new or increased co-payments.
“Besides the impact on consumers’ hip pockets, the concern with these changes is that they will deter people from seeking preventative health care, which is bad for public health, and bad for the health budget in the long run.”
For the full CHOICE summary of impacts for consumers visit to www.choice.com.au/budget2014