Abbott dumps GP co-payment in major backdown

THERE will be no $7 charge for pensioners, veterans, children under 16 or people in aged care to see a GP, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott made massive changes to its proposed levy on doctor visits.

Mr Abbott's change of policy follows intense pressure on the government to alter the scheme after it failed to be passed through the Senate.

To make up for the lost budget savings, the government will instead cut the Medicare rebate for doctors by $5 per visit in a bid to encourage doctors to spend more time with patients.

It will be up to doctors to decide on whether they will charge the patient to make up the gap, what the government is calling an "optional co-payment".

The plan must still pass Parliament.

Australian Medical Association Brian Owler has backed the changes, which he says will protect "vulnerable patients".

Via his Twitter account, Mr Owler said he had spoken with Health Minister Peter Dutton, and the AMA would now "work through the details".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said even with the latest change to the GP co-payment plan, it remains a tax on going to the doctor.

Mr Shorten accused the government of changing the proposal that he will increase over time.

"Labor will not allow Tony Abbott to wreck Medicare," he said. 

"That's still what he intends to do.

"Tony Abbott is under pressure and it's showing."

Mr Shorten said this change was not about protecting those worst affected by the plan -- the sick, vulnerable and low-income earners.

"He's only interested in protecting himself, that's what has motivated today.

"It's still a GP tax, it's still a broken promise."

Prior to this announcement, all patients were going to have to pay $7 for each GP visit from July 1 next year.

Pensioners and those under 16 would have to pay the fee for their first 10 visits per year.