Tuesday, 20 January 2015

And we wonder how Tony Abbott gets away with it?

For those among us still wondering how Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott manages to convince Coalition backbenchers to toe the line with regard to his punitive policies, here is the answer – by and large they are stupid.

Take Kevin Hogan the Nationals MP for a large federal electorate on the NSW North Coast, who on the morning of 15 January 2015 was quoted in The Daily Examiner:

Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the policy would not affect Clarence Valley residents because, in the majority of cases, doctors in the region saw patients for over 10 minutes.
"I don't support the city-based corporate six-minute medicine model of healthcare where doctors churn through 10 patients every hour as a policy," Mr Hogan said.

The policy to reduce the Medicare refund by $20.10 for GP visits under 10 minutes duration would not affect Clarence Valley residents?

The estimated resident population of the Clarence Valley is in excess of 51,000 persons.

Research done at the Family Medicine Research Centre in conjunction with the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney reviewed data from BEACH (a continuous national study of GP activity) and reported in June 2014 that between 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013 only 10% of GP visits were timed as 6 minutes or less while a total of 12% were less than 10 minutes duration1.

So if every person visited the doctor only once a year it is likely that an estimated 6,120 visits to local doctors in the Clarence Valley would have been short consultations – leaving non-concessional patient(s) around $33-$38 out-of-pocket on each of these visits.

Across the entire Page electorate those GP consultations affected would have numbered over 15,994. More if one considers that Australians go to the doctor on average between 3.73 to 3.78 times a year and in NSW the figure is probably slightly higher.

Even leaving aside concessional patients within those 15,994 plus visits, that’s possibly in excess of $200,000 extra per annum that people in the electorate would have been paying from 19 January 2015 - before national outrage forced a government backdown on 15 January.

This backdown didn’t include the planned $5 across the board Medicare rebate cut for all visits to the local doctor from 1 July 2015.

This measure will see in excess of $765,000 come out of combined local pockets each year for GP visits within the Page electorate. Across the Northern Rivers region it will total an est $4.7 million per annum.

The Member for Page is clearly wrong in his assumptions.

Of course the Clarence Valley is affected by the Abbott Government’s attempts to dismantle Medicare and the health care universal safety net. His entire electorate will suffer.

Given the the last national census revealed that the Clarence Valley continues to have a higher proportion of households with incomes below $600 per week (33.8%) than New South Wales (21.7%) or Australia (21.1%) it is possible that this area will be affected more than most.

Kevin Hogan has obviously taken the Prime Minister’s word as gospel and not bothered to do any independent research himself, which given the prime minister’s track record, makes the Member for Page a very stupid politician.

1. Australia-wide in 2013-14 only 8 doctors referred to the Professional Services Review by the Department of Human Services (DHS) were the subject of "inappropriate practice" findings. In that financial year no referrals to DHS for suspected fraud were recorded.

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