General Practice

Press Release

South Australia's Payroll Tax on General Practitioners: A Critical Threat to Healthcare Access and Affordability

After hearing concerns raised by independent general practitioners (GPs), and the dismissal of these concerns by the state treasurer, The Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) feels compelled to speak out against the state government's decision to impose a payroll tax on independent GPs.

The decision to apply this tax (to a new class of contract) appears to be a desperate attempt to fix a budget shortfall. By targeting independent GPs, the state government is indirectly imposing a financial burden on South Australians, who will pay more for care. This approach is unfair and damaging; especially given the current cost of living crisis, which is already causing people to delay necessary medical care.

This tax will increase ramping, with more people avoiding GP visits due to higher costs, leading to increased ED visits. Timely access to general practice prevents hospital visits, making this tax grab counterproductive.

The state government has announced an exemption for bulk billing consults. A bulk bill consult is typically reimbursed at half the amount recommended by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for sustainable, high-quality care. This insufficient exemption undermines a doctor’s ability to provide comprehensive care, meaning some GP clinics are likely to close.

The government reviewed nearly 300 contracts, and all received a subjective, non-legal response. This lack of due process suggests that this is pure revenue raising rather than a legal decision.

Independent GPs do not receive benefits such as leave or holidays and are not considered employees by the ATO. Treating them as employees for South Australian payroll tax purposes is both inaccurate and unjust. Primary healthcare has been proven to be the most effective way to reduce hospital costs by managing chronic diseases and preventable hospital admissions. This new tax undermines primary health services, and with primary care less accessible; hospital costs and waiting times will go up.

Rural areas will be disproportionately affected by this new tax. These communities already struggle with limited access to healthcare, and the additional financial burden on GPs will only exacerbate these challenges. Rural residents often rely heavily on their local GPs, and any reduction in services or increase in costs could have severe consequences for their health and wellbeing.

The widespread concern among South Australian GPs is unprecedented, indicative of the tax's potential harm. While resilient and adaptive, frontline independent GPs have felt compelled to speak out and would like their concerns to be taken seriously, underscoring the need for the government to reconsider this policy.

In conclusion, in our opinion, the introduction of a payroll tax on independent GPs in South Australia is a misguided policy that threatens to increase healthcare costs, reduce access to essential services, and place additional strain on an overburdened hospital system. It is imperative that the state government reconsiders this decision and seeks alternative solutions that do not compromise the health and wellbeing of South Australians.

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