Health Minister hopes negotiations don't kill GP co-payment
FEDERAL Health Minister Peter Dutton said he hoped the controversial GP co-payment fee did not fall victim in the latest round of negotiations between the government and crossbenchers.
The negotiations are scheduled to be held again this week in the government's latest bid to get the budget through the upper house.
The controversial $7 co-payment fee was one of the most contentious items announced in this year's budget.
The proposal has been met with wide-spread criticism with social service groups claiming pensioners and low-income earners would be worse off.
They claim people will put off going to the doctor because of the fee.
Mr Dutton told ABC Radio on Monday the $7 fee was quite modest when compared with countries like New Zealand.
He said discussions he had had with Senators over the budget measure had so far been productive and optimistic.
"I am hopeful the government can do a deal in relation to the GP co-payment," he said.
"If we do not, then Medicare will collapse under its own weight."
It is understood the government is considering concessions on the GP co-payment, university fees deregulation and measures attached to the mining tax to finally get its budget through the Senate.
Opposition Health Minister Catherine King said the government had been forced to negotiate because it was a terrible policy.
"Frankly our view is that it is a dud policy and they should just scrap it," she said.
"We know that the stronger your primary care system the better your health outcomes are, and in fact the government should be looking at strengthening primary care, not putting a barrier in the way of it."
Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop said on Monday the government needed to compromise in order to get its budget through the Senate.
She said all negotiations with opposition parties and independents needed to be constructive.
"If they have got constructive suggestions we should consider them," she said.
"That is what negotiations should be . . . finding constructive ways to work together to achieve the over-riding necessity of fixing the budget bottom line."
It has been more than three months since the budget was handed down.