$7 Medicare Payment Scrapped and Optional Co-payment to Replace It

There’s been a lot of news lately about co-payments, how much one will be (if it comes in) and how it will affect the budget of hard-working Australians. The fear is that the ‘universal health care’ that Australians have grown used to will be retired in favour of a more Americanised health system where if you can’t afford it, you don’t receive it. It is important to remember that Australian health care is not “free”, however, as it is paid for by the taxes of its population (currently 2% of a taxpayer’s taxable income).

It’s also important to remember that those who don’t pay taxes still receive this health care, and that in some cases there may still be costs imposed by the medical practitioner. Medicare was introduced in 1975 and it’s something many take for granted, seeing their ‘free’ health care as a right, not a privilege.


The idea of a Medicare co-payment was floated to offset some of the costs of running the scheme; some $3.5 billion over the next five years, in fact. Patients would attend their doctor (or pathologist or diagnostic imaging service), pay the $7 GP payment, and the doctor would still recoup the rest of the payment under the bulk billing option; some doctors were offering to absorb the $7, making visits free. With the scrapping of the co-payment scheme, though, the government has cleverly changed the wording to achieve the same goal – reducing what the doctor can claim via bulk billing by $5 but again leaving it up to the doctor to either pass that cost onto the patient, or absorb the cost.

While the government insists it’s a measure designed to increase the amount of time doctors spend with patients (consultations must be 10 minutes or longer to receive the standard rebate), it will still result in some patients being charged for what many see should be a free service.

The fact remains that there are still many general practitioners who are more than willing to absorb the cost of either the Medicare $7 payment or the $5 optional co-payment, making health care still the ‘free’ choice for many Australians who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

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