Cost of consults means a million fewer GP visits

MORE than 1.1 million people deferred seeing a GP in the past year because of the cost, and one in 10 could not afford prescribed medications, according to a report released last week.

The COAG Reform Council’s National Healthcare Agreement: Performance Report for 2009–10 marks the first time the council had been able to study waiting times for GPs and the numbers of people deferring treatment because of cost.

It found 6.4% of Australians over the age of 15 had put off seeing the doctor due to cost – with Queensland having the highest rate at 8.5% compared with 7.9% of WA residents and 4.9% of people in NSW.

Women were more likely to defer a visit than men, and people without private health insurance were more likely to do so than those with insurance.

Meanwhile, socioeconomically disadvantaged Australians (12.8%) were the most likely to defer filling scripts because of the cost, followed by people aged 25–44 (12.6%