AMA: Medicare co-payment plans based on 'ideology'

THE head of a key medical group has slammed any government plans to introduce a Medicare co-payment as based on "anecdote, assertion and ideology", in a Senate hearing Canberra.

Australian Medical Association president Associate Professor Brian Owler made the comment during a Senate Select Committee on Health hearing on Thursday.

Prof Owler said despite government arguments about rising costs of healthcare and the need for a "price signal", international data showed Australia got "very, very good results" on the amount of money spent on health.

But he said while a co-payment was a key issue, general practitioners were equally concerned about the continued freeze on Medicare rebate increases.

He said the Medicare rebate increases were frozen by both major parties, and it "has been falling in real terms for decades" against the rising cost of living.

"There is a lot of appetite in the medical profession for changes, but sometimes you have to invest to get those, but certainly primary health care and general practice are the areas growing at the most modest rate," Prof Owler said.

After the co-payment was effectively dropped earlier this year, new Health Minister Sussan Ley has been consulting with various groups about potential health reforms.

But a spokesman for Ms Ley said no deadline had been set for the consultations to be complete because she wanted to get input from health workers "at the coalface" as well as peak lobby groups.

A host of other rural groups including the Rural Doctors Association of Australia had welcomed the renewed consultations after the botched original co-payment debate.

However, RDAA chief executive Jenny Johnson said rural doctors remained concerned about the future of Medicare rebates and the expected disproportionate effect increasing costs could have for regional and remote Australians.

Ms Ley said in a statement the ongoing talks with the health industry were a "genuine consultation effort" and she was "going in with open eyes and ears open".