AMA backflip on co-payment

DESPITE fighting against a potential GP co-payment when it was flagged in the Abbott government's 2014 budget, the Australian Medical Association now wants the idea considered.

On Friday the new president of the top doctor lobby group in the country urged the Turnbull government to reconsider the idea and hit out at some other health policies.

New president Michael Gannon told ABC the proposal failed not because of the campaigns from doctors and Labor but because it "didn't give the opportunity for individual GPs to make a judgment" on which patients should pay it.

"What we have seen in the past, going back to the 2014 budget, was a desire by the Coalition to introduce a co-payment to try and work out ways that those who can afford it can contribute more to the cost of their healthcare," he said.

"Now the reason that proposal failed so badly is because it didn't give the opportunity for individual GPs to make a judgment, knowing their patients well, who can and can't afford even a modest amount of money."

After withdrawing the original $7 co-payment, the Coalition proposed a $5 co-payment that could be levied by doctors but it has since walked away from any co-payment - joining Labor in ruling it out.

The AMA's about-turn on the proposal means it would support a co-payment levied on patients - but not the poorest - while wanting the freeze removed from Medicare rebates to doctors.

The government is continuing the freeze on the Medicare rebate paid to doctors, a policy Dr Gannon said should be revisited.

"I think that in an ideal world (Malcolm Turnbull) would unravel the freeze tomorrow," Dr Gannon told ABC. "I'm happy that anything can be on the table, but we cannot have policy that doesn't protect the most vulnerable in the community."

In a later interview with 2GB Radio, Dr Gannon attempted to clarify the position: "My comments in the last 24 hours are not seeking a re-energisation of the co-payment debate. But what they are about is being able to have conversations about why those two proposals from two years ago were not good policy, being able to have a conversation about how we fund Medicare, 15, 20 years in advance."


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