Wimmera fears about $7 GP fee

FEE FEARS: Practice manager Rob Phillips of Horsham’s Lister House Clinic braces for potential issues arising from a Medicare co-payment scheme. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

FEE FEARS: Practice manager Rob Phillips of Horsham’s Lister House Clinic braces for potential issues arising from a Medicare co-payment scheme. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WIMMERA medical experts fear new fees will discourage people from seeing a doctor or buying prescription medications.

From July 1, 2015, people will be charged a $7 ‘patient contribution’ fee when they visit a general practitioner.

The fee also applies to out-of-hospital pathology and imaging services.

Concession-card holders and children under 16 will pay for the first 10 visits each year.

Horsham’s Lister House Clinic practice manager Rob Phillips said time would tell how the fee would affect clinics and patients.

“But it appears to be a logistical nightmare,” he said.

“We’re not sure how we will be asked to collect the money.

“It might deter some people from coming to the doctor and lead to greater problems down the track for those patients, especially those with chronic disease.” 

Money collected will go towards a $20-billion Medical Research Future Fund.

“Investing $20 billion into health research is an excellent move, but this is not the best way to do it,” Mr Phillips said.

General patients will be charged an additional $5 for medications included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

For concessional patients, co-payments will rise from $6.10 to $6.90.

Nhill Pharmacy acting managing pharmacist Greg Weller said it was a terrible idea.

“It’s difficult enough for people to afford their medications,” he said.

“I think there are people who will come in and say, ‘I can’t afford that one today, I’ll just get these two’.

“It’s a backwards step.”

He said it would be difficult to convince people to fill their scripts if they could ill-afford to.

“You’ve still got to feed yourself; you can’t live on your medications,” Mr Weller said.

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