I am glad common sense prevailed today and you called a halt to the changes that were to take effect on Monday. I see this as a reprieve, but not a victory. You have made it very clear you are intent on making changes.
I am disappointed you place the emphasis on consulting with the medical profession. I assume the public, the patients, the ones who pay the insurance premium are just lumped in under the category “others”. I’m not an “other”, Sussan, I am one of the many for whom Medicare actually exists. Medicare doesn’t exist for the medical profession, Medicare exists for the patients.
As First Dog on the Moon so beautifully reminded us all, Medicare is forty years old. I have absolutely no difficulty in accepting that a forty year old system may need updating. Imagine if we were all still driving T-model Fords. There are no doubt efficiencies that could be implemented, perhaps the item numbers may need a complete revamp, an alternative could be found for sick leave certificates and prescription repeats. The possibilities are endless, I agree.
The stakeholders you need to engage with are the patients, the customers of Medicare. Good change management is crucial. Consultation involves listening and understanding, not simply meeting with interested parties for appearances then ignoring their input to the discussion and acting in a unilateral or dictatorial fashion.
Certainly doctors need to be involved in the discussions, for it is the medical profession that administers much of the system. Doctors determine the item numbers, for example, and much of the data capture is now done directly at medical clinics. Any changes certainly need the agreement of the medical profession to function smoothly.
Should changes involve an increase in the Medicare levy, an option favoured by almost everyone I have spoken with, or a reduction in rebates, there must be a suitable transition period to allow the families of Australia to adjust budgets accordingly.
Patients are a mixed demographic. There are those patients that are ill for a limited period of time. A little like the partner visa battle, such patients are consumed by their illness at the time, but once well again want to just get on with their lives and leave the past and pain behind. Then there are patients who develop or are born with ongoing conditions. Such patients may be at various levels of normal activity: their condition may be manageable or in remission, or they may be severely disabled. There are potential patients who expect they are indestructible and ignore all talk of ever being a patient. What this means for you is your customer base is very diverse and often does not speak with one voice. It is your responsibility to ensure the various voices are heard and to speak for the vulnerable. You took an oath to serve the people.
There is a national patient group, the Australian Patients Association. I have reached out to ascertain the Association’s views on changes to Medicare.
You have an opportunity to improve Medicare for the benefit of the Australian people. Don’t fritter such an opportunity away. The Australian people have a right to a universal health system that is appropriate to Australia. We don’t need another country’s system, we need something designed for us and with us. We need any changes planned carefully and implemented in a way that doesn’t undermine the health of Australia. We need access to quality care without facing bankruptcy. We need to be able to afford the ancillary care that is often necessary such as physiotherapy. We need to be able to afford the blood tests and imaging required for diagnosis and the medication to treat or manage our conditions.
We need our doctors to be able to run their businesses, participate in high quality CPD and not be encumbered for life by student debt. We don’t want only the children of the very rich to be able to afford to become doctors, we want to best and the brightest.
For your reference, may I refer you to articles I have written to support our health system.
- You’ve been targeted: supporting the AMA and RACGP supporting us
- How Medicare Rebate cuts may impact the patient, other than cost
- In the Australia of the future, you will fly out to see a doctor
- Medicare is YOUR insurance cover
- What is this premature performance costing the taxpayer?
Don’t destroy our health system, Sussan. The RACGP petition sends a very clear message: heed that message.