Injured to bear burden of Budget 2014

14th May 2014

Budget cuts to Medicare will be borne by the injured, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.

The Federal Budget has proposed reducing Medicare rebates by $5 and introducing a co-payment of $7 towards seeing a GP, and out-of-hospital pathology and imaging services.

While a form of exemption applies to patients aged under 16 years or with a concession card, who will be charged this amount for the first 10 services in each year only, no such exception is provided for people who have been injured at work, on the roads and in the community.

“People who have been severely injured, often through no fault of their own, are going to be constantly putting their hand in their back pocket,” said Geraldine Collins, National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“Injured people are often receiving statutory compensation amounts yet are not eligible for concession cards. Instead, they will be shelling out the full $7 on each and every occasion they visit a health professional throughout their recovery and beyond. Statutory compensation amounts are already usually below a person’s pre-injury wage rate.”

“We’re talking about people who have such serious injuries that they cannot work. They are already struggling financially as well as struggling to rehabilitate and cope with the emotional toll of their injury.”

“An individual who has been injured will be seeing a number of health professionals per week to try and get their lives back on track.”

“While the Federal government has purported this budget is about getting people back to work, it fails to recognise that injured people in many cases need to focus on recovery first.”

“People trying to get their lives back on track will be hit the hardest.”

The Commission of Audit had proposed a co-payment of $15, which would decrease to $7.50 after 15 visits per year, and for concession card holders to be charged $5 for upto $15 visits, subsequently decreasing to $2.50 per visit.

“The Commission of Audit recognised the need for a safety net for people that visit health professionals more than 15 times a year,” said Ms Collins.

“The Federal government, while not imposing a co-payment as high as that suggested by the Commission of Audit, has still failed to recognise that people who have been injured bear huge costs.”

“One option would be for the Federal government to liaise with the States so that injured people receiving compensation payments would be eligible for a concession card. Alternatively, the States and Territories should be compelled to satisfy the entire cost of the medical treatment, which is another cost shifting from the Commonwealth onto the States. ”

 “This is a deeply disappointing development from this government.”