A trip to Milton Medical Centre is set to cost more from August 1 as the practice implements changes to fees and bulk billing.
The practice noted the increase is due to the Medicare rebate freeze and rising practice costs, with Dr Brett Thomson explaining the hike is unavoidable.
“We have now had a freeze since 2014 and before that we had a period with half indexation,” he said.
“The freeze has been extended by government to 2020.
“For medical practices to remain viable the flat Medicare rebate effectively means less wages, rent or power, which are all increasing.”
Fiona Phillips, Gilmore’s Labor representative believes the Coalition’s changes to Medicare are now directly impacting locals.
“The Liberals have said it’s all a scare campaign but it’s actually impacting people in the Milton-Ulladulla area,” she said.
“The Medicare Rebate Freeze will make it harder for patients as fees might have to go up and bulk-billing might stop.
“This has been an issue for some time and the freeze is starting to make it that much harder for patients.”
Despite the Coalition’s argument Labor’s election focus on healthcare was all a “Medi-scare” campaign and the program would see no changes, Ms Phillips believes Medicare is no longer the same.
“It’s not a campaign it’s actually happening now,” she said.
“They are axing bulk billing incentives for pathology and x-ray, meaning every time someone goes to have an x-ray or a blood test it will cost them more.
“There will be a prescription price hike of up to five per cent per script.
“Part of Labor’s policy would have been to reverse those changes.”
Dr Thomson argues the ongoing changes to Medicare has placed the viability of medical practices under threat.
“The reality for general practice’s is that the freeze, co-payment threats and increasing costs mean that the viability of general practice has been threatened,” he said.
“If patients have to pay a substantive amount of the fee then it's no different to outsourcing.
“If patients stay away because of fee fear then governments save money.
Dr Thomson believes the changes to the Medicare system risk people not seeking treatment due to price hikes and will put further strain on emergency departments.
“Evidence based medical research tells us the healthiest and safest communities in the world are those with the most effective primary care,” he said.
“Seeing poor or vulnerable people forced backed to emergency departments because of increased fees and poor rebates is just not good policy.”
Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis has assured locals that the Government will never privatise Medicare and the rebate freeze was a temporary measure while ballooning health costs were reviewed.
However Ms Phillips believes this is further evidence that the Coalition is planning to overhaul the healthcare system.
“When they come out and say it is lies, there is actual evidence that Medicare is being attacked and nibbled away at,” Ms Phillips said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.