Cuts to Medicare are making it harder for people in New England to access basic health care, Labor says

STOP THE CUTS: By-election Labor candidate David Ewings with Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King at Rusden Street Medical Practice, Armidale on Tuesday.
STOP THE CUTS: By-election Labor candidate David Ewings with Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King at Rusden Street Medical Practice, Armidale on Tuesday.

Barnaby Joyce’s cuts to Medicare are making it harder for people in New England to access basic health care and hurting patients and families, Labor says.

The Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King, joined Labor candidate for New England, David Ewings in Tamworth and Armidale on Tuesday to hear about the impact of the cuts.

“We’re seeing more broadly, the government’s policies are really hurting our healthcare system,” Mr Ewings said.

He said the New England now has one of the worst bulk billing rates in the country, at 122nd of 150 electorates. 

“We have a lot of elderly people in our electorate and struggle to afford the extra money with the freeze,” he said.

Under Turnbull and Joyce, Medicare rebates for GP visits have been frozen since 2014, pushing bulk billing down and out-of-pocket costs up. 

“Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals haven’t really done anything to alleviate the stress people are under in terms of healthcare,” he said.

“If I was a member for New England I would be working in a Labor government to really try and address some of those problems.”

But Mr Joyce said the Coalition has continually fought for healthcare in the New England.

“We’re still providing more for Medicare, more than any other government before us,” Mr Joyce said.

“We’re providing more in funding than any other government before us.

“Still they (Labor) come here and talk about that but they’ll never answer the questions, ‘why don’t you support the relocation of government jobs in Armidale?’

“Why do you not support inland rail, why do you want to get rid of the regional investment corporation that helps people struggling on the land?

“Why don’t you come up with something? 

“They’ve got no message for Armidale.”

Ms King said over 6,300 local people delay or avoid seeing a GP each year, with another 12,600 skipping specialist care due to cost.

This cut is blowing out waiting times in emergency departments and for elective surgery, with the Australian Medical Association's Public Hospital Report Card showing NSW meeting none of its targets – with 9,500 people waiting for elective surgery in the New England alone.