Australia’s largest health union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), says nurses and midwives won’t agree to any co-payments for GP visits or other services – our healthcare system is for everyone.
ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said the Abbott Government has our nation poised on the edge of change to our health system that will spell the end of Australia’s successful system of universal healthcare as it desperately struggles to sell its devastating health budget.
“The Government is starting to see how unpopular this health budget is, so it’s trying to negotiate deals with the people they think can get these measures through, like the AMA and Senate crossbenchers,” Ms Thomas said today.
“But from the ANMF’s perspective, there must be no deals done, there is no acceptable compromise. Even a watered down co-payment will hurt vulnerable people right across the community.
“As nurses and midwives, we have to remind Mr Abbott that all Australians should have access to quality healthcare when they need it, where they need it … it should not only be available to those who can afford to pay for it. Medicare must not be undermined or dismantled. Co-payments are not the answer to funding our health system.
“The Government’s recent negotiations with the AMA appear to involve discussions of the need for consumers to take more financial responsibility for their health and how best to achieve the Government’s aim of ‘sending a price signal’ to consumers to control health costs.
“Nurses and midwives consider that compassion and care are the best motivators for improving people’s health behaviours, not ‘price signals’ and ‘sticks’.
“Last week, the ANMF gave evidence to the Senate Inquiry into out-of-pocket costs in Australian health care, where we explained that Australians already pay too much for health care and too much inequality in health outcomes already exists. We need to improve this situation not worsen it.
“Under Medicare, we have one of the best health systems in the world. But shifting the cost burden on to Australian health consumers will make people sicker and will place further strain on already-busy emergency departments. It is simply unfair.”
Ms Thomas said a co-payment will also “open the door” for the introduction of US-style managed care as the Government seeks to expand the role of private health insurance companies in Australian healthcare. This system, which allows the intrusion of financial institutions into clinical decision making, will ensure greater costs for consumers and increased inequality in the future.
The Government can contain costs much more fairly by redirecting the Private Health Insurance rebate to public hospital funding, better negotiation of pricing for PBS medicines and a much greater focus of resources on prevention and primary health care.
For more information on the ANMF’s Lies, Cut and Broken Promises campaign, go to www.anmftakeaction.org.au
The ANMF, with over 233,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.