20 April 2015
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has met today with the Federal Health Minister, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, in Canberra to warn of the impact of Federal Government cuts to allied health funding, especially on the health of Tasmanians.
Mr Wilkie said as debate raged on the now-shelved GP co-payment, the Federal Government had introduced a co-payment by stealth on optometry services and had been giving no guarantees on funding for dental services in next month’s federal budget.
“I was pleased that Minister Ley took the time to discuss these issues,’’ Mr Wilkie said. “Regrettably she was immovable on the cuts to optometry. However, regarding dentistry, the Minister is in discussions with the State Government and I have reason to feel some confidence that federal funding of public dental services in Tasmania will continue.’’
A five percent reduction in the Medicare rebate for optometry services was introduced in January and indexation has been frozen. Anecdotally this has forced optometrists in Tasmania to introduce co-payments of between $5 and $40 and other practices to consider their viability.
Also in Tasmania, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) had become increasingly concerned the Federal Government would cease its contribution to public dentistry. The ADA feared this would leave Oral Health Services Tasmania with a depleted workforce and reduce their efforts to continue reducing public dental wait lists.
“Tasmania has the worst adult oral health of all states so any cuts to the public dental service would be hardest felt here,’’ he said. “Tasmanians are also among the least able to afford a co-payment to see an optometrist so many will put off getting their eyes treated as they can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses.’’
Mr Wilkie also raised with Minister Ley the concerns of pharmacists that the Federal Government is considering allowing supermarkets to dispense drugs. In response the Minister said it was her personal view that pharmacies should not be opened in supermarkets, and that there was no appetite in the Government for such a move.
Mr Wilkie took the opportunity to again invite the Minister to meet with Tasmanian GPs during any consultation process over public funding for GP services.