Most vulnerable in community would suffer more with proposed $7 GP fee

BEING slugged a $7 fee to visit a general practitioner could see the most vulnerable people in the community suffer even more. 

Paying to see a GP is beyond  the reach of poorer people. PICTUREs: LACHLAN BENCE

Paying to see a GP is beyond the reach of poorer people. PICTUREs: LACHLAN BENCE

As Australia comes to terms with what the proposed fee could mean, The Courier visited some local doctors’ practices on Friday to find out how the every-day patient would fare. 

“We simply wouldn’t be able to cope,” said pensioner and father  David Chapman. 

With both he and his wife receiving disability pensions and with three children at home – one with autism and two with Asperger’s syndrome – Mr Chapman said the government was “out of touch with reality” if they thought a Medicare fee would work.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said.

“Anyone with a chronic condition who has to visit the doctor on a regular basis is going to be hit very hard.”

The recent federal budget confirmed free medical care could be scrapped next year, with Australians forced to pay  $7 to see a  doctor.

Responding to Treasurer Joe Hockey’s claims the $7 payment was similar to “two middies of beer”, Mr Chapman said the government was delusional. 

“It’s all right for the politicians to go on about how little or how much it costs, but they need to look at the real world,” he said. 

“We need that money for crucial things, including the care of our vulnerable children.”

Another patient, Peter Thompson, commented on the fact the proposal would see “an average” person charged the payment 10 times a year before being bulk billed.

“That’s $70 that could go a long way towards other things in terms of families or individuals who are really struggling to make ends meet,” Mr Thompson said. 

“I’m lucky in that I can probably afford it ... but that’s not the point ... the point is that it will hit the poorest people the hardest.”

Allan Brown spoke of his six-year-old son who suffers from an undiagnosed syndrome and is autistic. 

“There were times when he was younger that we were at the doctors two, three, four times a week,” he said.  “In reality, if we were paying $7 each time ... well we just couldn’t have done it. He would have got sicker.”

On the streets, the people of Ballarat were generally well aware of what the proposed payment would mean, with some reasoning that it was needed in order to reign in increasing debt. 

One man cited the old adage, “who can put a price on their health?”.

“Seven dollars for your health seems OK,” he said.

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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