Govt rejects new Medicare privatisation claims

The federal government is rejecting Labor accusations that frontline Medicare services are being cut back as a precursor to outright privatisation.

A weekend media report, citing leaked documents and unnamed sources, says the government is shutting Medicare shopfronts and outsourcing the processing of refunds to new centres. According to the News Corp report, all face-to-face Medicare services will be shut by December.

Labor's shadow health minister Catherine King says the move will delay refund claims (and, therefore, doctor visits) and that the government is closing frontline services to pave the way for privatisation.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has rubbished that extrapolation as "alarmist nonsense". She accepts that changes are happening, but says the effect on patients will be minimal. Some 96% claim online, and the remainder can still claim Medicare refunds in person or via a drop