The West

Doubt over impact of co-payment
Uncertain: Bureaucrats are unsure of the impact of the proposed co-payment on emergency departments. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

No modelling had been done on whether the $7 Medicare co-payment would lead to patients flooding emergency departments, Federal Health Department officials said yesterday.

Despite warnings from doctors and the States that sick people would try to dodge the new charge, bureaucrats were unable to tell a Senate Budget estimates hearing what the impact of the co-payment would be on public hospitals.

They also revealed modelling had not been done on plans to increase the co-payment for prescription medicines by 80� for concession cardholders and $5 for general patients, and the 13 per cent rise had been a figure selected by the Government's Budget razor gang.

Deputy secretary Kerry Flanagan confirmed no modelling had been done on whether the co-payment would increase attendances at emergency wards.

She said, though, there had been no "honey pot" effect when the four-hour waiting limit was introduced nationally for emergency departments several years ago.

But Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said that example was different from the proposed co-payment.

Senator Di Natale and Labor's Jan McClucas suggested doctors would be effectively penalised $13 for bulk-billing concession cardholders.

Doctors who charge concession patients the $7 co-payment will also get a $6 "low-gap incentive" payment from the Government.

The West Australian

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