The people of rural and remote areas will welcome the recent announcement by Minister Sussan Ley of the Government's intention to undertake wide-ranging consultation across the country to come up with sensible options to deliver appropriate Medicare reforms.
The National Rural Health Alliance believes there should be universal access to high-quality primary care for all Australians - irrespective of where they live.
Since Budget night last May the Alliance has made the point that if the Medicare rebate were to be reduced, the extra cost would have to be borne by either the patient or the GP. Patients' out-of-pocket health care costs are already higher in rural and remote areas.
Tim Kelly, Chairperson of the Alliance, said the last thing rural patients need is another barrier to accessing primary care.
"Rural people already postpone or avoid doctors' appointments because of the cost at higher rates than people in the cities," Dr Kelly said. "If it gets still harder to see a GP it means rural people will have even less access to pharmacy and other services to which a doctor may refer them: such as pathology, allied health, nursing and dental care.
Higher rates of potentially preventable hospital admission already exist for rural people. It would be unfair and counter-productive to make this worse by further impairing access to the range of health services available through the local general practice.
"It's for these reasons that, in its further considerations, the Government must account for the special circumstances of people in rural and remote areas," he said.
The Alliance is confident that Ministers Ley and Nash have a very good understanding of the challenges faced by country people. It looks forward to working with the Ministers to ensure that the interests of people in remote areas are enhanced.
Gordon Gregory (CEO) 02 6285 4660
Tim Kelly (Chairperson) 0438 011 383