Doctors are concerned that medical imaging like CT scans may be unaffordable for the most vulnerable people.
Australian medical patients will be out of pocket by up to $62 more for a range of diagnostic and pathology tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs, doctors say.
The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association says the most ill people will be hit the hardest by the Turnbull government’s $650 million cut to healthcare.
Association president Dr Christian Wriedt labelled the decision a government “cash grab” that would make medical imaging like CT scans unaffordable for vulnerable people.
He said those with serious conditions – cancer, a heart disorder, arthritis, vascular issues – often needed regular imaging to monitor the condition and treat it.
However, such patients would have to pay hundreds of dollars upfront.
“We thought the co-payment was history, but it’s back,” Dr Wriedt said.
“This will make it more difficult for many patients to receive the life-saving level of care they need.”
The association predicts that from July, each X-ray will cost patients $6 more, ultrasounds $12 extra, CT scans $34, nuclear medicine $43 and MRIs $62.
Health Minister Sussan Ley scrapped the incentive payments that aimed to encourage the bulk billing of pathology and diagnostic services in the hope the cuts would be mostly absorbed by competition in the testing industry.
“Patients with high out-of-pocket medical costs will also continue to be covered by the Medicare Safety Net protections,” she said.
Ms Ley said the pathology incentive, which had cost taxpayers $500 million since its introduction in 2009-10, did not work as bulk billing rates increased just 1 per cent during that period.
However, the association said general patients would wear the costs of the cuts.
“This is a minister who has been at pains to say she wants to work with clinicians and yet this announcement comes completely out of the blue with absolutely no consultation,” Dr Wriedt said.