Release the Data: a message for the Government on Health Care Costs

There is currently a rumour about a possible $6 co-payment for general practitioner consultations

The rationale is that there are too many GP consults and consequently a co-pay will reduce GP attendences. Hence, there will be a net saving for government.

This is a fine argument and in actual fact the evidence is that GP attendances are likely to decrease. The evidence is also that overall health costs don’t decrease with such actions. In fact people tend to shift where they attend for health care or alternatively by not attending for early treatment they might end up costing more.

The government should not jump in an just impose this fee. Not because it won’t decrease GP attendances but because we don’t know how Australians will compenstate. We already know that pharmaceutical co0payments reduce prescription fulfilment and we might infer that overall health is reduced as a result.

The next step should not be jumping to an unproven solution but collecting the data to support change. This includes imposing mandatory use of a universal identifier and the ability to collect and link data from primary and tertiary and acute and chronic care settings. Only then will we be able to predict and/or monitor the effects of co-pays and other interventions.

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