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Patients should pay if they can: AMA boss

AAP logoAAP 21/07/2016 By Belinda Merhab

The head of the powerful doctors' lobby insists patients who can afford to pay for GP visits should, as he pushes for an increase in the amount doctors are paid by the Turnbull government.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon wants the government to lift its freeze on the rebate it pays for GP visits, arguing doctors can no longer keep up with rising costs of doing business.

But when it comes to introducing co-payments for patients, he believes those who can afford it should pay.

"The AMA supports GPs and other specialists being paid appropriately for their endeavours and their skill," he told reporters.

"What equally we want to see is protections inbuilt for the most vulnerable in our community."

Dr Gannon met Health Minister Sussan Ley in Canberra on Thursday just days after she was reappointed to the role, as the government works to repair its image on health following Labor's damaging Medicare scare campaign.

The meeting followed speculation Ms Ley would be moved from the role, amid criticism she didn't do enough to counter Labor's attacks on health during the election campaign.

Ms Ley kicked off the meeting by insisting that while there wouldn't always be agreement, she'd be collaborative and consultative, including with the new Senate crossbench.

Dr Gannon says no firm commitments were made during the "warm and productive" meeting - understandable given the prime minister's new cabinet has yet to meet.

But he wants a serious timeline on when the government will lift the freeze.

The May budget extended the freeze to 2020 but Dr Gannon says he'd be "gobsmacked" if the government was game enough to go to another election before lifting it, having almost been defeated by Labor's scare campaign.

"They got the scare of their life on health," he told reporters after the meeting.

"What I've heard from the minister today is she's heard what the Australian people had to say during the election campaign - health should not be the focus of budget repair in this term of government."

The GP copayment was declared "dead, buried and cremated" by the government last year but Dr Gannon says those policies were flawed because they didn't enable individual GPs the ability to make judgments about who could afford to pay.

"I think GPs really are in touch with the needs of their patients."

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