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Medicare rebate freeze undermines scheme’s universality: AASW

Published: 19 May 2016

The Federal government’s decision to extend the freeze on the Medicare rebate until 2020 puts Australia’s universal health care system at serious risk, says the National President of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Professor Karen Healy AM.

“The government’s decision not to increase Medicare rebate payments in line with inflation will inevitably raise the cost of healthcare and leave many providers with no choice but to pass on the increasing cost of running their practices to patients or to push some bulk billing practices to the brink,” said Professor Healy.

“Low-income earners will continue to be the worst-hit under these measures, which may even result in some people not seeking medical treatment and therefore being more likely to end up needing expensive hospital treatment.”

The AASW also anticipates the continued freeze having a negative impact on the whole range of Medicare funded services.

“The government decision doesn’t just affect GPs but all of the health services that are provided through Medicare, including the Better Access Initiative through which accredited mental health social workers and psychologists provide vital support and early intervention services,” said Professor Healy.

“Given the prevalence of mental health issues in our community we need to be looking at making treatment more accessible, not less.”

“Australians are proud of Medicare. While the government tries to contain growth in expenditure, these measures will not only impact some of the most vulnerable members of our community but also the hard fought for universality of our health care system.”

The Australian Association of Social Workers represents over 9,500 professional social workers who are committed to working with communities and individuals to promote wellbeing, human rights and social justice.

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AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers