Doctors: Medicare rebates freeze still at cost to regions

DOCTORS warned the Abbott government's freeze on Medicare rebates for GP visits would act as a co-payment, despite Health Minister Sussan Ley dropping the co-payment policy today.

After six weeks of talks across the country, Ms Ley (pictured) confirmed the $5 co-payment would be dropped, as would a proposed $5 cut to rebates.

But she said a proposed freeze on Medicare rebate increases would remain, for an undetermined period, until the government had completed its talks with the medical profession.

The announcement about abandoning the co-payment followed uproar over the plan in health circles, and criticism from within government ranks as well as the wider community.

Ms Ley said she was still seeking savings across the health budget, but did not have a savings target. While the Australian Medical Association and Rural Doctors Association welcomed the news, both groups criticised the decision to retain the rebate freeze.

RDAA president Dennis Pashen said the funding freeze had the potential to increase costs for regional patients even more than the original co-payment.

He said it also put more pressure on the financial viability of rural doctors surgeries.