Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker has thrown his support behind the proposed GP co-payment.
Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker has thrown his support behind the proposed GP co-payment. AAP/Alan Porritt

Hartsuyker: GP co-payment fair for all

IF THERE'S a Coalition split in Canberra about the proposed $7 GP co-payment, Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker isn't part of it.

When asked if he thought pensioners should be exempted from the GP co-payment as some other Coalition MP's have been quoted as saying, Mr Hartsuyker response suggested he believes measures outlined in the Federal Budget make the sytem a fair one.

"Since the 1960s we've had a co-payment of one description or another for medicines, such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"Our proposal maintains the safety net. Under the co-payment, once patients get to a $70 threshold they revert back to bulk billing.

"There is also flexibility under our plan for doctors to continue to bulk bill patients who are struggling to cover the costs of a medical consultation.

Mr Hartsuyker said it's essential Australia has a Medicare system which is strong and sustainable to service this country's ageing population.

When asked though how introducing the co-payment made Medicare more sustainable, the Assistant Minister for Employment was more keen to point to the history books of the Opposition rather than offer a detailed explanation.

"Labor commissioned two independent reports that described our current system as unsustainable but they didn't have the courage to act on either," the Cowper MP said.

"Bob Hawke - who led the Labor Party before it lost its way - introduced a co-payment in 1991, following advice from current Labor front bencher Jenny Macklin.

"At the time Hawke said: "It's very difficult to suggest that a co-payment of $3.50 [around $6.40 in today's dollars] going to create great hardship"."

He pointed out Federal Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, a man many regard as the most academically qualified economist within the Opposition ranks said: "the ideal model involves a small co-payment - not enough to put a dent in your weekly budget, but enough to make you think twice before you call the doc. And the idea is hardly radical"."

Mr Hartsuyker added it was rare to see such consensus across the political divide but he said the Bill Shorten led Labor opposition was, not unexpectedly, opposing this necessary reform for the purpose of opposition itself.

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