"The Abbott government's proposed $7 co-payment for visits to the doctor, and for other medical services, will effectively destroy Medicare as a universal, bulk-billed health service for the community," Erima Dall, spokesperson for the Sydney Save Medicare Committee said on May 14.
"The government is also opening the way for the states to charge an up-front fee for previously free treatment at public hospitals, in the expectation that people will be forced to turn to the emergency departments because of the GP co-payment.
"The government is also planning to slash at least $15 billion from federal funding for public hospitals over the next 10 years. This will create a crisis in our hospital system, and force severe cuts in bed availability and surgery waiting lists.
"Patients will also have to pay more for medicines, with a further $5 charge being added to the cost of PBS pharmaceuticals. Together, these price hikes and cuts represent an all-out attack on Australia's much-valued public health system.
"The community will not stand for this. We are gearing up for a fightback. We've already held an action on budget day to send a warning shot to Abbott.
"We intend to make attacking Medicare Abbott's 'one-term' regret. Polls show 79% of people think Medicare is a good thing, and only 11% thinks privatising it would be a good thing. The government is trying to get away with privatisation by stealth.
"They are adding a payment to Medicare in the hope of pushing people more onto private health insurance. But Medicare should be universal, not simply a safety net for the absolute poorest.”
The government is attempting to cover up its attack on the Medicare system by claiming the money raised from the co-payment will be redirected to establish a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund to finance new medical research projects.
This confidence trick means that money taken from sick people in the short term is supposedly to be used to fund medical research in the future. In any case, funding for research should come from general tax revenue — particularly from taxing big business, which will profit from the research.
The Save Medicare Committee held a rally in Sydney's Martin Place on May 13 to raise awareness of the looming threat to Medicare. The rally was addressed by Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NMWA) secretary Brett Holmes and others.
[A Budget Fight Back Forum, titled "No to Abbott-Care: Hands Off Medicare", will take place on May 27 at 6.30pm, at the UTS Tower Building, Broadway. Speakers include economics professor Bill Mitchell and NSW NMWA assistant general secretary Judith Kiedja. A rally to Save Medicare will also take place on Saturday May 31, at 1pm, at Sydney Town Hall.]