that Medicare author Professor John Deeble suggested GPs should charge organisations for their employees’ medical certificates.
Deeble said that the documents required by employers to certify their workers’ illnesses should be billed separately by Medicare, with the amount being regained through charges on businesses.
“It's got nothing to do with healthcare, so why not?” he told The Sydney Morning Herald
. “The person who requires the medical certificate is the employer. The [sick] person doesn't want it. It is a service to business, because otherwise it would have to set up its own clinics, or they'd have to just accept their employees’ word.”
Brian Morton, chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s council of general practice, said that the number of patients visiting their GP merely to obtain proof of their illness for their employer is “unnecessarily high”.
He suggested that employers should consider alternatives for managing absenteeism, criticising the lack of trust which ultimately leads to doctors prescribing antibiotics for minor illnesses when they are inappropriate.
However, business groups rejected the suggestion that employers should be held financially liable for medical certificates.
“Anything that adds to the costs and complexity of running a business is a backwards step that will make it more difficult for businesses to grow and create jobs,” said Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell.
Stephen Smith, national workplace relations director for the Australian Industry Group, told the Herald
that Deeble’s proposal was “a ridiculous idea that would be met with very strong opposition from employers.”
Smith added that “with [sick leave] entitlements, the employer has the obligation to provide the entitlement but only if the employee satisfies his or her obligation to provide adequate proof that he or she is entitled to it,” saying that this “has always been the case”.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said that providing patients with medical certificates was an accepted aspect of practicing medicine, but added that she was “continuing to keep an open mind” in regards to Medicare reform consultations. She also said that Deeble was “welcome to put forward his ideas for consideration”.
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