This month I am calling on the City of Sydney to take a stand against the Abbott Government’s proposed Medicare co-payment. The measure announced in the budget will provide a disincentive for people on low incomes to seek medical care. As a government organisation, I would argue that one of the City’s key performance indicators is the health and happiness of its citizens. Access to primary healthcare is at the forefront of community wellbeing. Prevention through health check ups, early intervention and better management of chronic illness are vital elements of a good health system and a healthy society.
On a salary of more than $360 000, not to mention significant family wealth, I understand $7 per GP visit or test might not mean much to someone like Joe Hockey but it means a great deal more to thousands of City residents. The City of Sydney is home to the highest concentration of public housing residents and to a large concentration of students. Those of us that live week to week, or at times day to day, will struggle to meet the additional costs. I have no doubt that many people will be more inclined to let the early warning signs of serious conditions go untreated.
Australia’s system of universal healthcare is the envy of many parts of the world. Whether you need to go to the doctor or not we are all beneficiaries of a system that provides on the basis or need rather than ability to pay. Successive governments have chipped away at various subsidies and rebates increasing gap costs for many services, but the fundamental principle of providing primary health care to all citizens remains. Ultimately, the cost of the co-payment is not just $7, it is the end of our universal healthcare system. Whether or not the government decides to exempt concession card holders or other groups from the co-payment in order to get it passed by Parliament does not matter. Once the payment is in place it can be increased or altered at any time. Universal healthcare will be no more.
Greens at all levels of Government will continue to work a needs based healthcare system. For more details on the Greens campaign to save universal healthcare: http://richard-di-natale.greensmps.org.au/campaigns/save-medicare