A leading health economist has urged the government to drown out the loudest voices and avoid quick fixes as it embarks on a major reform of the Medicare system.
The University of Melbourne’s Stephen Duckett warned against “poorly designed” quick fixes, including throwing money at the system without structural reform, in the upcoming budget.
“Pouring money into a system which needs structural reform is not the way to go,” he said.
“Simply increasing rebates may not (result in) increased bulk billing rates and does not progress the structural form necessary for contemporary primary care.
“The reform process must start from a good foundation and not be distracted by the loudest voices pushing for a poorly designed quick fix that will not age well.”
He added one of the issues facing general practice was the rise in corporate ownership of clinics, who want the “same rate of return” that they’d get from a shopping centre.
The health economist was speaking alongside the Royal Australian College of General Practice president Nicole Higgins and AMA ACT president-elect Kerrie Aust as part of a panel at the National Press Club on the future of Medicare.
Dr Higgins and Dr Duckett were key members of a government task force that released a report into strengthening Medicare last week.
The report recommended the government seek to transform the public health network to one that is more affordable, “blended” and better utilise data and digital technologies.
The RACGP president stressed overhauling general practice needed to be at the heart of Medicare reform.
“We can no longer take general practice for granted … It is time to invest in general practice. If not, and this is the call, you will miss us if we are gone,” Dr Higgins said.
Dr Higgins also cautioned NSW and Victoria against a proposal to impose a payroll tax onto arrangements with GP clinics and independent contractor GPs.
“We have the state premiers on one hand saying we need health, let’s fix Medicare, but on the other hand we have payroll tax,” she said.
“We already pay payroll tax including those on GPs and training. What this will do is force GPs to uncouple from Medicare, and that is already happening, and pass that cost onto the patient.”
Story Credit: news.com.au