Co-payment will widen the gap: Owler

"Anyone that comes to a remote community where there are large numbers of Indigenous people will immediately understand the GP co-payment system cannot be applicable for those communities," said Professor Owler from Darwin. 

"To expect those patients to pay is never going to work. It would hamper Indigenous health," he said.

Professor Owler said Aboriginal Medical Services would be forced to forego the co-payment, disqualifying them from the bulk billing incentive and forcing them to absorb the $5 cut to the MBS rebate, resulting in a hit of $14.10 for each patient. They would likely pay the $7 for each instance of diagnostic imaging and pathology.

"It's an effective reduction in funding because they potentially have to pay, on behalf of the patient, the co-payment for diagnostics and pathology — otherwise they won't have the tests."

He expressed concern this would have flow-on effects in terms of prevention and chronic disease