David Koch fires up at health minister Mark Butler over Medicare crisis live on Channel 7’s Sunrise TV show

Sunrise host David Koch has fired up at the federal Health Minister during an interview about the ongoing bulk-billing crisis, as many Australians struggle to afford rising gap payments.

The crisis has prompted warnings from experts that some patients may be forced to delay treatment and end up making their conditions worse as bulk-billing rates plummet.

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Some general practitioners have already closed their doors as the current funding model becomes unsustainable, while others have been forced to pass on the fees to their patients.

However, when David Koch asked Health Minister Mark Butler if he would increase the rebate to GPs so there won’t be a gap to pass on to patients, the interview quickly got heated.

Butler said years of Medicare rebate freezes, begun by Peter Dutton 10 years ago when he was health minister, had “effectively pulled $500 million from Medicare every year”.

Sunrise host David Koch has fired up at federal Health Minister Mark Butler over his stance on the ongoing Medicare crisis. Credit: Sunrise

“You cannot turn that around overnight,” Butler told Sunrise.

“It should be no surprise, if you are freezing doctors’ wages for six years, the gap fees are going to climb.

“That is why we insisted on putting more money into Medicare at the centre of our health policy.”

Koch quickly brought Butler back to the question: “No, no, no. Let’s go back!” he insisted.

“Are you going to make up the difference for rebates to get doctors back at level pegging?”

Butler replied: “I said the money we committed at the last election would not be decided just by me, that I wanted to sit down with doctors and nurses and patient groups to work out the best way to invest that money.”

“So the answer is no,” Koch said.

“The answer is I’m doing the right thing talking to patients, doctors and nurses about the best way to spend the money we committed at the last election,” Butler said.

It comes as Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that in 2020-2021 just under half a million Australians reported that they had missed recommended medical specialist treatment due to the high cost.

As the situation worsens, many are coming forward and expressing their concern for those who are unable to afford such high upfront fees.

Many have taken to social media to share their stories of just how much they were charged for consultations.

One Reddit user posted his experience to the platform last week, claiming he was charged a huge $80 for his 43-second-long telehealth consultation with his GP.

The user said they needed a repeat of their usual script, but was shocked to discover how much the quick phone call had set them back.

While they are still expected to receive a rebate for the consultation, their calculations say the gap would still be significant.

“I love the convenience of it, but f***, that’s expensive,” they said.

Therapy dog retires from surfing.

Therapy dog retires from surfing.

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