Billed GP visits expected to hit poor

A POSSIBLE bulk billing fee would hit residents hard, according to the Salvation Army. 

The idea has been floated this week with the federal government yet to rule out the possibility a $5 or $6 fee could be added to bulk-billed GP visits. 

Spokesperson Bruce Redman said while some people might not consider it a huge fee, it would impact hardest on those people his organisation dealt with.

“Some people are already reluctant to go to the doctor,” he said. 

“What we found in our survey was that 35 per cent of people who access the Salvation Army services, when they do go to the doctors, can’t afford to pay for the prescriptions. 

“That is a huge number.” 

The Salvation Army has been monitoring the possible change, according to Dr Redman.

“I mean, they are saying concession cardholders will be exempt, but I think, with a third of people who are going to the doctor not able to afford their prescription, there are other financial burdens which are going to discourage them from getting essential medical services,” he said. 

Dr Redman said he understood the government was attempting to stop over-servicing. 

“The problem is, you’ve got single mums on Newstart (allowance), they are living on $32 a day, so you are going to take five or six dollars out of that,” he said. 

“Out of that they have to pay rent, they are paying for

their food, everything. You are basically going to be taking a meal out of their mouth.” 

Mr Redman said some people who lived in regional Victoria might have to travel to see a doctor as well. 

“It is exacerbating the problem, it’s costing, it’s costing, it’s costing,” he said.  “If it is difficult to pay for prescriptions, it is difficult to pay for a train ticket down there or to pay for half a tank of petrol, then another $6 as well.

“They will say ‘oh well, I will forget about it’.”

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