A political storm is brewing between the Australian medical fraternity and the Federal Government about the introduction of the new $7 co-payment fee to be levied on patients. Doctors who rely on bulk billing are caught between a rock and a hard place and are looking for alternatives.Doctor

Take one of Sydney’s inner-west practices for instance: This area suffers from high unemployment and a range of economic, social, and health issues. Doctor’s estimate 99% of their patients are currently bulk billed. The introduction of a $7 co-payment will significantly reduce the number of patients who choose to admit themselves and see a Doctor.

And it’s not because they’re hypochondriacs.

It’s envisaged many people will now refer themselves to the Emergency Wing of their local hospital in an effort to see a Doctor while avoiding the co-payment. This will put strain on already struggling hospitals and could see some medical practices go under.

The other alternative is for Doctors to shift the co-payment fee to another part of their practices. Some Doctors are considering raising imaging or pathology fees in an effort to retain their bulk billed clients and keep themselves in business.

Interesting times ahead for this budget.

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