According to the Tasmanian Council of Social Service ‘the median age of death in Tasmania’s most disadvantaged neighbourhood is 66, compared to 84 in the State’s most advantaged neighbourhood.’
This TASCOSS finding is a dreadful example of social injustice. It’s also hard evidence of the consequences for disadvantaged Tasmanians of not being able to afford to see their GP. And no wonder, because bulk-billing rates continue to fall due to years of inadequate Medicare indexation, and this leaves around half of all Tasmanian patients having to pay out-of-pocket costs of up to $43 per consult.
Of course the Federal Government claims bulk-billing rates are high and going up. But this is downright dishonest, because the Government counts the number of services bulk-billed, and not the number of patients. In other words the Government’s figures are a lie.
I see the harsh reality of all this in the Clark electorate, where the bulk-billing rate is one of the worst in the country, and where many people avoid their GP because bills like rent, food and power are more pressing. But of course if you skip the GP, conditions can become deadlier and dearer to remedy, a crisis we see in our stretched emergency departments, full hospital wards and premature death statistics.
Frankly the harm caused by the Government’s chronic underinvestment in GPs in this country is shameful. The Government must fix it, and fix it urgently.