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NZMA Supports Gps Right To Charge

The New Zealand Medical Association supports GPs who wish to charge a co-payment for treating children aged under six. "This is unavoidable with the current subsidy level, and we appreciate that it may cause difficulties for some families," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams.

Children under six receive a subsidy of $32.50 for each GP visit.

"GPs have been very supportive of the aims of the under-sixes subsidy," said Dr Adams. "But many GPs are now finding that they are also personally subsidising under-sixes visits to the doctor because the subsidy has not kept pace with increasing costs."

"Although the under-sixes subsidy was promoted as providing 'free' GP visits, it has never been free in the sense that treatment at a public hospital is free," Dr Adams explained.

GPs have always been permitted to set a fee and charge a co-payment, if necessary, for under sixes. When the subsidy was set by the Government in 1997, it was at a level that GPs were prepared to accept without charging a co-payment. Since then the subsidy has not increased, but general practice costs have.

"Many GPs now feel they must charge a co-payment, otherwise they will be losing more money each time they treat a child," Dr Adams said. "After all, it costs the same for a GP to treat a child as it does to treat an adult.

"If the subsidy is not increased, then undoubtedly more and more GPs will start charging."

It's important to remember that the vast majority of general practices are private businesses. The doctors who own those businesses must cover their costs (including staff wages, rents and equipment) before paying their own salary. In the main, GPs' incomes have fallen in real terms over recent years.


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