It’s all over my social media right now. GPs are up in arms about it. They are threatening to quit, change specialties, or just leave the country.

But do you even know what’s got them so riled up?

The latest scare tactic, aka ‘nudge’, from the government, is letters to healthcare providers accusing them of incorrectly co-billing Medicare item numbers.

The RACGP covered this here, but since then GPs have been blowing up all over social media.

The government has history of doing this sort of thing. Robodebt was a great example of the government seemingly targeting innocent people, demanding excessive debts repaid, with no evidence of wrongdoing. We all know the stress and problems this caused those individuals affected.

Now they are doing the same with doctors.

This is a different kind of letter to the opioid letter for example. That was worded in a way to try to get people to change their prescribing habits, and not as a financial issue.

This is very different.

This isn’t even thinly veiled. It’s an outright warning to doctors, mainly GPs, that despite Medicare rules clearly allowing co-claiming of item numbers, that you should not be doing so.

We know that good clinical care means not sending patients away if they have more than one health problem, and you can hardly stop a patient mid sentence talking about their severe mental health distress just because they came in with a broken toe.

Thisnis what the government wants though. This letter is asking (virtually demanding and threatening) GPs to abandon our patients mid consult and tell them their mental health is not a priority. That they will need to return another day. Or that they just don’t get an item number for that part of their consult and either the GP or the patient is out of pocket from that consultation.

This is grossly unfair. And it is another example of the government saying one thing and doing another behind patients’ backs, reducing their access to healthcare by stealth.

This will affect all patients and healthcare providers, but those who will suffer the most are the most vulnerable. Those most at need.

Patients and GPs are both on the losing end here.

These are some responses to this crisis (and let’s not sugarcoat it, it is a crisis) on my social media from doctors:

‘If this goes through I’m f**king quitting’

‘Patients are really going to struggle. I don’t know how they will afford care if they can’t get their rebates’

‘I’m already on the brink, this might just tip me over the edge’

‘I’ve had to take a week off to recover from the stress. If they audit me I don’t think I could cope’.

This is just a sample of responses from doctors who received these letters. There are hundreds out there thinking the same thing.

Why should you care?

  • Your rebates will drop.
  • Doctors will refuse to co-bill Medicare items
  • Doctors will refuse to see more than one problem per appointment
  • Doctors will reduce their hours and consulting times to lower chance of further accusations and audits
  • Doctors may start to stop you midsentence if you stray off the initial problem for fear of being accused of cheating the system
  • Your doctor may just quit
  • Worse still your doctor may end up getting sick from mental health problem
  • Some doctors have committed suicide due to unfair Medicare scrutiny, this will.undoubtedly have a similar effect

What can you do?

Get up in arms about it as well. Tweet and Instagram the hell out of it. Write letters and phone your elected officials. Put pressure on them. Show them how unhappy you are. Show them how much you will suffer.

We know the thing politicians care about the most is votes, and you don’t get votes from an unhappy electorate. So get out there shout about it .

Make no mistake. The government is watching. They are on the hunt, and they will get their pound of flesh if we don’t act now.

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