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Ley slams reports on pap smear cost

Thursday, 7th January, 2016

By Erica Visser

Sussan Ley has put claims surrounding cuts to bulk-billing for pathology down to a smear campaign.

The health minister yesterday afternoon slammed reports that upcoming changes to Medicare would see women fork out $30 for a pap smear.

Earlier in the day Labor vowed to block the measures in the Senate with opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King calling on the government to allow debate on the issue.

Any barrier to accessing the cervical screening test would have health consequences, Ms King said.

“They introduce a very big blunt instrument, no warning, no negotiation with the sector.”

Pathologists say the cost will need to be passed on for all pathology tests.

But Ms Ley insisted the removal of the incentive payment was separate to the Medicare rebate paid for procedures like pap smears.

She argued stock exchange-listed pathology companies are concerned about the impact on shareholders, not patients.

“Medicare is not designed to be a guaranteed bankable revenue for corporations, nor is a taxpayer-funded payment like this provided to cross-subsidise other costs of doing business for pathology companies.”

The member for Farrer had previously conceded “some may be worse off” under the changes.

Meanwhile local councillor, Darriea Turley, took to social media to share her strong views on the matter whilst urging users to sign a petition to keep pap smears free.

“Our health system is officially in crisis. Only the wealthy will be able to afford access to diagnostic tools,” Ms Turley said.

“If the goal is to avoid ‘the ageing population’, Ley and Turnbull are going to achieve it. Disgusting.”

Local GP, Ramu Nachiappan, also joined the call for the government to ensure pap smears and pathology services remained free.

“Any preventive health measure that has cuts based on ‘cost savings’ will ultimately result in greater cost for treatment of conditions down the track,” he said.

“Women are tax payers and highly productive members who deserve to be given the same level of preventive health as others in the community. 

“To target half the members of our population from a preventive health measure that detects cervical cancers early is unreasonable and uncalled for.” 

Dr Nachiappan said that pathology labs in regional areas including Broken Hill were struggling and would suffer the consequences of any cuts.

-BDT/AAP

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