$20 Medicare slug axed by federal government

THE Federal Government has scrapped controversial changes to Medicare which would have forced people making a quick trip to the doctor to pay an extra $20.

The changes, to come in Monday, would have meants that an appointment that lasts less than 10 minutes would attract a $16.95 rebate, with 10 to 20-minute appointments returning a rebate of $37.05.

The Federal Government had argued the changes would improve the quality of care patients received.

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the changes a short time ago.

Ms Ley said she had become 'deeply concerned' about the misinformation around the changes and the concerns demonstrated by both doctors and patients.

She said the changes were now 'off the table' until a wide-ranging review was carried out, including consultation with doctors.

Only yesterday she had blasted Opposition leader Bill Shorten for his 'backflip' on the issue.

"Ten years ago Medicare was costing $8 billion; today it is costing $20 billion. In ten years' time it will be $34 billion.

"Without reform, Medicare will collapse under its own weight and jeopardise the world class, affordable health care Australians take for granted,'' she warned

"Labor should support the government's reforms in the interests of patients or put forward their own plan as to how we should build sustainability into our health system."

The changes had been aimed at combating so-called "six-minute medicine".

"Under current rules, a GP can access Medicare rebates for up to 20 minutes, even if their patient is in and out the door in six minutes," a spokesman had argued only yesterday.

"These changes more accurately reflect the time a doctor spends with their patient and encourage longer GP consultations for better health outcomes, not 'six minute medicine'.

"This is particularly true in the case of chronic and complex medical issues."

The federal government had been heavily lobbied by the Australian Medical Association on the issue with the AMA urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to personally intervene.

Brian Owler from the Australian Medical Association said he was pleased with the changes, saying it would benefit both doctors and patients.

Mr Owler said there had been no consultation over the changes before the government implemented the changes.

"Now with the new Minister she has the opportunity to consult,'' he said.

The government had argued that the majority of GP consultations in Australia already lasted over 10 minutes and would therefore be unaffected.

The Australian Medical Association has criticised the rebate cut, saying it would put even more pressure on the public hospital system.

The spokesman for the Health Minister said the AMA's criticism contradicted earlier statements.

"The Minister has already met with the AMA and will continue to consult doctors and the broader community about changes to make Medicare more sustainable for the future," the spokesman said.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten seized the opportunity while on the campaign trail ahead of the upcoming Queensland state election in his ongoing attempt to link federal issues with state issues.

"What the rebate reductions mean in plain English is fewer Queensland doctors will be bulk-billing," Mr Shorten said.

"More Queenslanders will have to wait when they are sick and will end up going into the medical system later when they are sicker."