Injured to bear burden of rising healthcare costs

2nd May 2014

Injured workers, people with disability, and people living with chronic illness are going to bear the burden of rising healthcare costs, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.

The Commission of Audit has recommended that if Australians visit a health practitioner less than 15 times a year, they should pay an extra $15. For those who exceed this limit, every subsequent visit will be charged $7.50. The co-payments would be in addition to any out of pocket costs.

For concession card holders, visits to health practitioners will cost an extra $5.00 for up to 15 visits, and subsequently, $2.50.

“The real losers in this reform are people injured at work, on the roads or through other accidents who do not receive concession cards following physical or psychological injury, and will bear the burden of not only their injury, but the upward path to recovery,” said Geraldine Collins, National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“Injured workers, road accident victims eking an existence from workers’ compensation payments or no fault road accident schemes, as well as people on the disability support pension are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Ms Collins.

“While an extra $15, $7.50, $5.00, or $2.50 per medical visit may look innocuous to the Commission of Audit, in reality, this will hit people hard,” said Ms Collins.

“People who are trying to access health care to assist their recovery should not be impeded from doing so.”

“With injured or chronically ill people often having complex medical needs, the introduction of co-payments with a ‘safety net’ of 15 visits a year does not recognise the unique cost burden borne by those living with severe illness.”

“Insurers should be the ones paying for the cost of recovery that a person, who has been injured by the fault of another, is desperately trying to undertake. However, those injured will now be consistently putting their hand in the back pocket to pay extra to try to get their lives back on track.”

“Insurers will be the real winners, as the injured taxpayer will be footing medical bills, rather than the insurance companies that should be paying for injury in the first place.”

“Ironically, the Commission of Audit has also proposed more people taking out private health insurance.”

“If this co-payment is introduced now, there is no cap on how many times it will be increased. This could be the first step in creating a downward spiral of affordability of healthcare for those who are ill and financially struggling in this country.”

“For a government that committed bipartisan support to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this is a big step backwards in terms of securing adequate support for people living with disability, chronic illness or injury.”

Injured workers whose payments under relevant workers’ compensation systems will only receive concession status once their payments have ceased, via transfer to the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Injured workers continue to have the same outstanding liabilities that they had pre-injury.

The proposals of the Commission of Audit on this issue can be viewed here.

Tags: Compensation Health, medicine and law