There are a lot of things I don’t like about the way the Australian government is running things. The latest budget has in it a whole slew of horrific changes, including plans to raise the pension age, cuts to an already criminally low corporate tax rate, draconian unemployment laws, and of course the widely publicised and unnecessary Joint Strike Fighter. (Seriously, what country is going to attack Australia with a traditional army? The only possible threat is from terrorism, and against terrorism a fighter jet is useless.)
But today, I just want to talk about the proposed $7 co-payment for GP services. Now, a lot of GPs already charge over and above the Medicare rate, and my wife and I (when we lived in the country) would usually pay of the order of $40 to see our doctor. But if you can’t afford it, there are doctors you can see for free. This is a crucially important feature of our system, and this is what the government intends to get rid of.
This is bad. Like, USA-style health system levels of bad. You know, the system where they pay two or three times more for healthcare than any other country as a percentage of GDP, for much lower quality care? To the point where their life expectancy is four or five years lower than the rest of the Western world, or more like ten if you aren’t white?
Making people pay for seeing a GP, with no exemptions, will have two effects. One, it will drive people to go to the emergency department for minor ailments, thus increasing already long waiting times for people with genuine emergencies. Two, it will discourage them from going to the doctor for preventative medicine, regular checkups, and so on, and often they won’t end up seeing a doctor until it is too late. Time is too crucial a factor in treating diseases. This is why the USA’s health figures are as bad as they are, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect it won’t have the same effect here.
There is also the fact that, like sales taxes and other charges for public services, a GP co-payment is a disgustingly regressive tax — it falls disproportionately on poorer people. Joe Hockey tried to deny this, pointing out that higher income earners will be charged the $7 co-payment as well. He’s a fucking moron if he doesn’t understand that someone on $100k a year can afford $7 a lot more easily than someone on $25k a year. My left shoe understands economics better than he does.
There are many things I miss about Australia, my family being only the first entry on a long long list, but right now, I am so glad I don’t live there any more, and every week, my emigration becomes more and more permanent.
(Now, I know that the ALP, the Greens and Palmer all oppose the co-payment, and they have the Senate numbers to shut it down. But that the government is even considering this is obscene.)