Doctor calls for waivers

A BENDIGO doctor believes a $6 co-payment for bulk-billed patients is reasonable, but wants assurances the country's most vulnerable will be cared for.

The federal government has not ruled out a $6 fee for GP visits in a bid to rein in health spending.

The proposal would save the government $750 million over four years by forcing patients who are presently bulk-billed to make co-payments.

Dr Adel Asaid of Strathfielsdaye Primary Health said Australia needed a reliable health system and the cost of providing that was high.

"But we need to protect our most vulnerable,'' he said.

"We should be caring for the elderly, our veterans and those people with life threatening conditions.''

Dr Asaid said a co-payment for non-urgent presentations at hospital emergency departments should also be introduced, to avoid further over-crowding and deter some from using the ED as a back-up GP clinic.

But he said it was vital the government delivered all relevant information quickly.

"They need to tell us exactly what is happening, we are tired of political games,'' he said.

"It's a reasonable thing to do as it's not a significant amount of money ... but leaving us with only a little bit of information creates unnecessary anxiety.''

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has refused to end speculation the proposal had the government's support, only saying he was committed to ensuring the health system was ''sustainable and accessible to the future''.

Initial reports suggested the co-payment should be $5 and families would be allowed up to 12 bulk-billed visits before having to pay.

However, the report, obtained by Fairfax Media, shows the recommended co-payment is $6 and patients will not get 12 free visits a year. Instead, once they visit their GP more than 12 times in a year the government will start to pay the fee for them. It also says GPs may use their discretion to waive the co-payment on compassionate or financial grounds.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the Prime Minister needed to rule out any new fee immediately.

With The Age

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