Shorten blames PM for Gladstone bulk billing cuts
LABOR leader Bill Shorten has blamed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for cuts to bulk billing in Gladstone after The Observer yesterday reported two more practices had ceased offering the service to patients aged between 16 and 65.
Mr Shorten said it was "a disgrace" some people had to go to hospitals instead of GPs to receive medical care, pointing to a 19 per cent rise in the average out-of-pocket costs to see a GP in Flynn since 2013.
"We are now starting to see the full effects of Turnbull's Medicare freeze not just in Gladstone but right round the country," he said.
"I promise locals in Gladstone and in the region, if I'm prime minister I will end Turnbull's Medicare freeze, because Labor believes the health care you get should depend on your Medicare card, not your credit card."
Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd pointed out the idea of a freeze on Medicare rebates had first been introduced by a Labor Government, while the Coalition had already lifted the freeze on bulk billing incentives and was set to re-index standard GP consultation rebates in July.
"Medicare indexation will be implemented in a fiscally responsible phased approach," Mr O'Dowd said.
"Typical Shorten and his Medi-scare tactics yet again. He's tried this trickery before and will again."
Mr O'Dowd said although the Federal Government was responsible for setting Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate rates, doctors were free to set their own prices.
"The Australian Government has no authority to set the fees charged by doctors nor can it require them to charge only the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee for a particular service," he said.
"The actual fee charged is a matter for doctor and patient."