CONCERNED Ballarat residents are avoiding making medical appointments in fear of being stung the $7 Medicare co-payment, only days after Tuesday's federal budget confirmed free medical treatment would be scrapped by July next year.
Two local bulk-billing clinics were forced to send out text messages on Thursday stating that the co-payment wasn't required yet after potential patients bombarded the clinics with phone calls asking about the new charge.
Hundreds of residents received a text message from the Eureka Medical and Dental Centre shortly after 12pm on Thursday.
It read: ''No co-payment required, $0 bulk-billing still available at Eureka Medical and Dental Centre.''
Meanwhile the 28 Drummond North Medical Practice also sent out text messages on Thursday to their patients, again reminding patients that the payment wasn't required yet.
The messages came two days after Tuesday's federal budget confirmed free medical care would be scrapped next year, with Australians forced to pay a $7 payment to see a doctor.
Bulk-billing will end from July, 2014, when the government cuts the Medicare rebate paid to GPs, pathologists and radiologists.
Primary Healthcare Group, a Sydney company which owns and runs the Eureka Medical and Dental Centre, said on Thursday that the text messages were used to "keep patients up to date''.
''We always send messages to our patients to keep them up to date with our services," said Primary Healthcare Group insurance and complaints officer Shalini Enenda.
Eureka Medical and Dental Centre staff in Ballarat refused to comment on the text messages, while 28 Drummond North Medical Practice owner John Murray said his practice had been inundated with calls.
"We are not going to charge it at this time because there is no legislation for it yet,'' Mr Murray said.
''That was the reason for the text messages.''