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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

GP co-payment change brings a Hobson's choice that still undermines bulk-billing

GP co-payment change brings a Hobson's choice that still undermines bulk-billing



GP co-payment change brings a Hobson's choice that still undermines bulk-billing






The new policy isn’t as unfair as the original one, but the question
is whether Abbott has squandered so much trust that people have stopped
listening











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Link to video: Tony Abbott ditches compulsory Medicare co-payment





Unable
to convince voters and the Senate to back its $7 GP co-payment for the
past seven months, the government has decided to try to sneak past them
with an amended version just as they start to relax into Christmas.



Children, pensioners and concession card holders will be exempt,
under the new plan, but doctors will be able to choose to raise their
fees to make up for the fact that the government rebate will decline by
$5 per consultation. That’s the kind of choice made famous by a man
called Hobson.



This policy isn’t as unfair as the original version, but it will
undermine bulk-billing for most patients – which was always its
political point.



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And
despite requiring both legislation and regulation (which may be
disallowed by the Senate) it has been announced after the parliament has
risen, when the head of the Australian Medical Association is overseas
and David Warner had just scored a century in the first Test against
India.



Oh, and the prime minister said he was “certainly not ruling out”
advertising on this policy although that was “not being currently
contemplated”, just as the government is advertising the higher
education reforms that have also been rejected by the Senate.



At least this backdown had some policy detail, unlike the weekend’s
announcement about the paid parental leave scheme which was more a
foreshadowing of a backdown sometime in the future.



But it is still making fundamental and contentious changes to a
policy area which, according to the latest Essential poll, is ranked
highest by voters in terms of importance.



Tony Abbott
tried to make a virtue of necessity. He said the policy was better than
the one he presented in the budget – which he had kept arguing until
last week was in fact the best plan – because the government had been
listening to the concerns of its own backbench.



The question now is whether he has waited so long, and squandered so
much trust with broken promises and bickering, that the electorate has
stopped listening to the government, or its arguments, or its
advertising.



According to that same Essential poll, 65% of voters thought the past year has been a bad one for Australian politics. And 44% thought next year was unlikely to be any better.