Dr Glasson’s New Year’s Medicare resolutions: @GriffithElects reports


By Jan Bowman  @GriffithElects

4 January 2014

When, just after Christmas, the Australian Centre for Health Research (ACHR) announced it had made a submission to the Government’s Commission of Audit proposing the introduction of a mandatory Medicare co-payment, there were calls on Twitter for the media to ask Dr Bill Glasson whether he would support such a proposal.

That seemed like a big ask: the first day back at work after the Christmas break, Dr Glasson’s answering service issued the message that his office would be closed until Monday, January 6.

Yet an enterprising ABC reporter managed to get hold of him, and the resulting report sparked a storm of interest, not just in the Griffith electorate, but nationally. Dr Glasson’s comments were a trending issue on Twitter this week, and have been reported in the mainstream media.

His response was always going to be of interest for two reasons: he is a doctor and past president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA); and he is Tony Abbott’s friend, a ‘hand-picked’ candidate for Griffith.

The ABC quoted Dr Glasson: “I do support an affordable price signal, but we have to make sure it wouldn’t impact on the most vulnerable in our society, especially children, the elderly, Indigenous and patients with chronic conditions”.

“If you can afford to pay, you should pay, to keep the system fair and affordable.”

Given the speed and ferocity of the negative responses to the proposal, not least from the current president of the AMA, Dr Steve Hambleton, Dr Glasson’s contributions to this debate sets him apart, because neither his leader, nor the Health Minister, have made their positions clear, preferring to leave any decisions to the Audit Commissioners.


The ALP’s Terri Butler, Dr Glasson’s challenger in the Griffith by-election, spoke to No Fibs today.

“As he (Dr Glasson) is standing for Federal parliament, I would like to think his comment was a considered one. I would hope that when radical ideas are proposed he gives them due consideration,” she said.

“If he is in favour of this initiative, is that then indicative of what Mr Abbott might be saying?”

Asked what reactions she is hearing in Griffith, Ms Butler said: “If people are floating an idea that undermines universal health care, people will react strongly”.

“People are really confused about what’s being suggested and why,” she said.

“If you look at what the proposed savings are, this proposal looks to be much more ideological than financial.”

Ms Butler said that people are rightly worried about how this might play out for them. For example, she said, the fee might start at $5 or $6, but some are worried it will be increased later.

“It has certainly been the case that co-payments for pharmaceuticals have increased substantially since they were introduced,” she said.

“It is confusing and worrying for people who have grown up with universal health care. There is confusion for people my parents’ age and older, who gave up pay rises in the 1980s. They are rightly saying: ‘well hang on, what’s happening to universal health care in Australia?

“Mr Abbott hasn’t ruled it out. Mr Dutton hasn’t ruled it out. The only member of the Liberal party who has been categorical in his support is my opponent, Bill Glasson,” she said.

The Greens’ candidate for Griffith, Geoff Ebbs, was quoted in a press release today: “Tony Abbott should be looking to his billionaire mining mates to help balance his books, not every day struggling residents”.

“The people of Griffith will be queuing up at our local hospitals’ emergency departments to avoid paying this extra cost,” Ebbs said.

“Alternatively, they just won’t go to the doctor themselves or take their sick kids because they can’t afford it.”

In a statement to No Fibs, Geoff Ebbs said: “These backwards ‘robbing hoods’ invent a new way every day to rob the poor. Ordinary working families are now struggling as the underclass in a two-speed economy. The Greens will stand up to these bullies and fight for ordinary Australians.”

Given the current political climate, the residents of Griffith might rightly be wondering, ‘what next?’.

STOP PRESS: Health Minister Peter Dutton says Medicare unsustainable without ‘overhaul’ (undisclosed before election).


Read more Griffith Seat Reports

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  1. I don’t think that the current President of the AMA was spurred into his comment by the stance of Glasson; he made his opposition to the idea before we heard from the candidate.
    Also of note are the comments of Dutton making mumbling noises about the whole of Medicare.

  2. A copayment isn’t going to stop “trivial” visits to the GP. It’s going to stop visits to the GP by poor people, who statistically are more likely to have health problems anyway. Trivial visits by cashed-up people will continue. Which prompts the question: How many GP visits are trivial, anyway? Who decides?

    • John Fraser says


      And then those people end up in hospital costing the health system a motza.

      "“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
      For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
      For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
      For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
      For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
      And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail."

      Benjamin Franklin

      But then …. with the "Slick" Abbott squad ………. political dogma takes first place.

    • “I do support an affordable price signal, but we have to make sure it wouldn’t impact on the most vulnerable in our society, especially children, the elderly, Indigenous and patients with chronic conditions”.

      Sounds like Glasson has generally supported it with sane caveats. WIthout all the details as to how the most vulnerable will be treated, why get worked up into a lather?

  3. The suggested impost of $6 is approximately 10% of the cost of a brief visit to your GP, Sounds like a GST on medical services to me.

  4. A Whiter Shade of Pale says

    I am totally in favour of a co-payment. What is proposed is a mild imposition on a western culture that some members are increasingly heard to state “why do I have to pay”.
    That statement, is unsustainable. Some in the medical fraternity are fully aware of the massive drain on the public purse of bulk billing,
    but continue to feed off the same, because they fear their patient numbers may decrease and therefore their income.
    The model is a modest $6 co-payment after 12 fully bulk billed visits per year and does not apply to the usual health care card,pensioner or chronic care patients.
    I believe this is reasonable and should go somewhat further. Incidentally, if you want to do something for your country,
    pay the full fee and don’t claim it back.

    • John Fraser says


      Have a read of this : http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/end-to-bulkbilling-plan-may-be-coalitions-own-great-big-new-tax-20140103-309dp.html

      And consider the position of 75 year olds who have no Super (their working life ended 2 years after Super started) and are living on the pension.

      Thats with the price of utilities going up quicker than the CPI and their pensions.

      They don't go to a doctor …. they get sicker and end up in hospital …. all because people like you thinks $5 is a small amount of money.

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        The co -payment will not be required from pensioners, health care card holders and chronic care patients.

    • $6 is not modest if you are poor.

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        If you are poor. You are not required to pay. Incidentally, I often listen to people who make statements about the price of things, often, just as they are jetting off to Japan for a skiing trip for a month.

      • This has not been committed to definitely AWSP. Is it in writing? Otherwise we now what Tony says isn’t reliable. And some of those in-writing pre-election things haven’t been so reliable either.

      • Look up the payment level for the dole. Then do the sums. If you can show me how to save for a trip to Japan on it I’ll buy you a beer (a cheap one I could afford).

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        I wasn’t referring to people on the dole jetting off to Japan.
        I was referring to people who can afford a trip to Japan and still complain.
        Some Australians never stop complaining.
        A visit to a paediatric oncology ward to view the lives of all involved including all staff
        should place it all into perspective for the “I shouldn’t have to pay” collective

  5. FelineCyclist says

    I have read that the copayment would also apply to emergency department visits. Can anyone confirm?

    • It has been reported in the SMH that Terry Barnes has suggested extending a fee to emergency departments.

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        I would doubt very much if it would be extended to A&E visits.
        The very nature of the term Accident and Emergency , should give people some idea as to when they should attend the same. Ie if there is an accident or emergency.

      • John Fraser says


        @A whiter etc

        Your "very much doubt it" is misplaced.

        Emergency department visits will require tap and pay.

    • The long waits at emergency would put off all but the most determined, especially as if you’re coming in with something trivial you’ll get triaged as being able to wait until everything serious is dealt with.

      I’d be curious as to whether the talk of people going to the ER with trivial things that a GP would normally treat actually happens or if it is just smoke and mirrors.

  6. WE keep on talking about universal healthcare with out really defining what that all entails. For a start publicly funded healthcare standards & services are in a sloppy and shoddy state. Because of the state system of authority and delivery there is poor consistency of management, clinical practice standards, data control, records management etc etc.
    Nurses the backbone of the system are being run ragged and are demoralised by just being allowed to do the basics for a pittance. Their low wages and they are wage earners not fat salaried employees. are helping to subsidise a tortured and wasteful system.

    What service we get and what we expect to get from publicly funded health care needs to be properly debated. If the private system is so much more efficient then the poorer classes should be subsidised to take out private cover which would allow them to use private health services. Would Abbott Dutton & Co be interested in this idea or would they see it as a licence for the private operators to print money?

    The community should be encouraged to take some ownership of their healthcare requirements otherwise no matter who is running the political engine standards will continue to fall in the healthcare industry.
    The suggestion of a co payment may not be worth the trouble in the long run when the system both public and private needs to be put on a more sustainable footing incorporating better transparency and streamlined IT systems. The Federal government should take over the running of all public health care in the country. Have them directly fund and implement one standard across the whole of Australia. The digital era would allow us to effectively manage health services with greater openness and economical certainty. Peter Dutton Bill Glasson et al need to pull back a bit take stock and have a proper conversation of the hows & whys where and whoever is going to change our sick medical model. This co payment may end up being inefficient penny pinching rather than going the hard yards of properly transforming a system (incl private health that I am a member of) that is not providing a fair and viable system.

    • I do think those who do the nursing are overworked. I don’t think RN’s are underpaid (though others are).

      To really do something we need to shift to healthier lifestyles (this includes urban design, secure and reasonable work hours for a decent income and much else). The cost of health/sickness care is driven by technology (pills and machines) not GP visits.

  7. Consistent with everything the LNP do. Get money from those who have none to spare. I’m not surprised. The LNP have no heart in this sort of thing. The trouble here is they LIED and misled the people on the eve of the last election. Abbott made himself a small target and when cornered made strong statements of denial. He clearly cannot be believed. He has no integrity whatever and is unsuited to lead a decent country like this one WAS.

    • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

      Clarittee, why is it not suitable for people, after 12 fully bulk billed visits per year to a GP, to be required to pay the $6 dollars.
      The people who can least afford to pay, will not be required to pay. We must acknowledge that fact.
      Im not an apologist for Mr. Abbott, but he is quoted above as saying ‘no cuts to health’ the co- payment is not a cut to health ,
      it is a way of funding health.

      • John Fraser says


        "Big new tax" ?

        "No health cuts" ?

        "No corporate taxes" ?

        "No surprises government" ?

        "Aussie health suppositories " !

        Just keep those 3 word slogan/policies coming.

        "Low income taxes" …… appears to be the one getting the most attention , some even say its a real highlight of "Slick' Abbott's government.

      • Because health should be available to the poor as well as the rich. It is called civilisation.

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        And that is the way it should be and actually is.
        Where it all went wrong is some people don’t believe in paying for a service that benefits them. Often some will pay for non essential rubbish but bemoan paying for expert medical treatment. Why is the waste of money seen as some sort of “right”

      • Yes, the wealthy feel it their right to waste money. The poor don’t have this luxury. For myself I find generosity to be a virtue. I ask you to look at the rate of the dole and do the sums.

      • If you have money, it is yours to waste. If it is tight, you should be careful so there isn’t waste.
        Generosity is what we have in our system in abundance in the health system. That those on low incomes wont be adversely impacted by this seems to obviate your concern regarding health costs and the level of the dole.

  8. John Fraser says


    The ones who should be paying this extra impost (tax) ….. are those who were so mentally deficient that they voted for "Slick" Abbott …. all while thinking that a 3 word slogan was a policy promise and would be the ones that "Slick" Abbott would keep.

  9. A Whiter Shade of Pale says

    Everyone will be required to pay the co-payment, after they have already had 12 fully bulk billed consultations without having to pay the 6 dollar co-payment. The people who will never have to pay the co-payment are pensioners, health care card holders or chronic care patients

  10. A Whiter Shade of Pale says

    Evan, no person on the dole will be required to pay the $6 dollar co-payment. Neither health care card holders or chronic care patients

    • Because we always believe pollies don’t we AWSP. They’ve never trashed a promise after all.

      • A Whiter Shade of Pale says

        Evan, I agree with you there, politicians often “re-work” what they have previously stated.
        But I do believe legally, they are required to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. Ie that is why we have programs of health care cards, pensions and such.
        You previously spoke of generosity and again I totally agree with you, but what better way to be generous than to pay the $6. I am not referring to pensioners etc

      • John Fraser says


        @ A whiter shade etc

        You should keep an eye on what Corey Bernadi is saying.

        One of the "Slick" Abbott so called "conservatives".

      • @ John Fraser: You mean it is dreadful for Corey to point out that not all family models produce the same outcomes in terms of quality of life or quality of citizen? How dare he use facts and statistics. The nerve of it!

      • It is the stats that are used and how they are used that is the problem Bob.

      • Evan: the critique doesn’t appear to focus on the stats, but more on the conclusion he draws that not all family models are equally successful. apparently we’re not meant to point out that the nuclear family is still the best model for raising people who don’t end up being long term guests of her majesty.

  11. There are a couple of basic problems with this proposal.
    1. The discouragement comes from causing pain – and then we ensure it won’t cause pain. What’s wrong with this picture?
    2. It doesn’t deal with what is causing the increase in costs of health (sickness) care – technology (the pills and machines). GP visits are a very small part of the costs of our health (sickness) care system.
    3. If we want to promote health there is much to be done – from urban design to income support to make work more secure and less stressful. All of which would make positive contributions to people’s health.

    • Evan:
      Your objection number one is an interesting one. Its the argument I’ve often put as to the utter stupidity of the carbon tax that labor introduced. The intention was to send price signals to the market, then any means of sending signals was dampened down by the handouts.
      In this case, i don’t think the overall intention is to deter use of the doctor, only to provide more money into the bucket from the many who can contribute.

      In a socialised model of medicine as we have here (I like it and don’t want us going down the path of the americans), people are free to not wear the true cost of their lifestyle choices, as it is spread over everyone. We can now treat and identify disease that we could only dream of in previous generations. We could drop the cost of healthcare if we stopped innovation, but I’d really rather we kept on looking for the cure to things like cancer.

      Point 3: this is a good point but isn’t a problem with the proposal as put forward.

      • Hi Bob, I made no mention of intention. The carbon tax price signal is different – it is to force the companies to use renewable, not to consumers. I don’t have nearly so much problem with inflicting pain on companies.

        Research isn’t the driver of health costs. Cancer research is mostly a failure, in terms of ROI. The money would be better spent deterring smoking and drinking (not fashionable but alcohol abuse has frightful costs). In other areas research has proved fantastically beneficial.

      • The carbon tax would invariably be passed on to consumers. in one way or another. otherwise, why was there a need for household compensation? You do realise that companies employ people, and if you make it too costly or painful to do business here, they’ll just take it elsewhere? we don’t have a monopoly on making widgets, and we don’t have trade barriers.

        Drug research is horribly expensive. Hence drug companies need to charge a lot to recoup the research on both the successful drugs as well as the ones that didn’t make it to market.

        If price signals haven’t made alcohol and smoking a problem of the past, what hope do you have that continued efforts in a similar vein (or an enforced prohibition) will improve things? Most alcohol related issues in the public could be resolved if bar staff were held accountable for responsible service of alcohol rather than getting people well and truly plastered before turfing them onto the street.

      • Companies employ people? Gee really? Drug companies weren’t in danger of going broke last I heard. And last I heard different sorts of companies employ people. You do realise that don’t you?

        I’m for enforcing early closing hours and having some kind of policing within 1km of licensed premises – which is where the problems are. The violence has varied from time to time and place to place which means some factors influence it. Prohibition, as I think you agree, has been shown to have awful effects.

        All of which is rather beside the point as to dealing with the costs of health (sickness) care. As the West’s health burden is to do with lifestyle diseases I think the emphasis should be on lifestyle modification and education/counselling (broadly defined).

      • Having no qualms with punishing companies seems to belie any concern for their ongoing wellbeing. Given a free market approach to which companies flourish and which don’t, i’m guessing you have no qualms about the closure of car makers in australia? Just not competitive, so let them find jobs elsewhere? After all, there are other companies which are apparently hiring. That the job market is dead in the water is beside the point.

        Drug companies prosper as they charge what is required to cover their research. Hence the high cost of medication (and the link to the original article).

        How do you get lifestyle modification without imposing the nanny state? Can it coexist with individual liberty? Pricing signals haven’t worked for cigarettes and alcohol (and frankly the price of beer is now so high that i brew my own, or drink wine). One benefit of private health cover is that you are responsible for your own health, and have more of an incentive to look after yourself, but that hasn’t led to better lifestyle decisions by americans.