Cough up the cash: no more free treatment at hospital emergency departments
EXCLUSIVE SIMON BENSON
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
APRIL 08, 2014 11:30PM
No more free visits to emergency wards for Australian patients. Source: DailyTelegraph
PATIENTS who crowd hospital emergency wards seeking treatment for minor ailments such as the common cold will be charged under reforms being considered by the federal government.
The Daily Telegraph understands the Commonwealth is considering granting the states discretionary power to charge people who arrive at public hospital casualty departments with conditions or injuries that should be treated by a GP.
A senior government source confirmed the radical reform would have to be part of any move in the May Budget to introduce a $6 Medicare co-payment — a change some fear would encourage more people to use emergency wards as free after-hours GP clinics.
“If you do something around GPs, then you would have to do something around the emergency departments,” a source said.
“You would have to give discretion to the states and territories. People need to be discouraged from going to the hospital with a stubbed toe.”
The estimated national cost of treating people in emergency wards for conditions as trivial as ear aches has reached more than tops $1 billion a year.
It can cost hospitals as much as $450 to treat a person with a minor condition at an emergency ward.
Under the proposal, any fees charged by state public hospitals would be retained and channelled back into that state’s hospitals.
The government has yet to confirm whether it will impose a $6 Medicare co-payment of charge for a GP visit in the May Budget.
Health Minister Peter Dutton has signalled the government’s intention to consider changes to Medicare, arguing that it needs to tackle the rapidly rising cost of healthcare.
States are unable to recover any costs of treatment at emergency departments, regardless of the severity of the injury.
The Commonwealth would have to grant states and territories a discretionary power to allow them to charge a similar fee to that of a GP for minor and trivial complaints.
A Senate inquiry, believed to have recommended a $6 Medicare co-payment, heard from consumer groups such a policy risked further clogging emergency wards with low-income families seeking free care.
All this will do is see more people die of thing they shouldn’t
How many people wont go for a suspected heart attack, in case it isn’t
How many children will die because parents are not sure if they will be charged, and if the problem really is serious or not.
Who knows what a GP can and cannot do for some things, that is if you can get in to see one.
How many will hold off getting help until they are seriously ill?
All I can see this doing is creating a lot of very sick people or dead people.