The Australian Medical Association has demanded Tony Abbott scrap his proposed $7 GP fee, accusing the Coalition of treating healthcare as ''an ideological toy''.
In an article published by Fairfax Media on Thursday, AMA president Brian Owler branded the proposed fee ''unfair and unnecessary'' and said it deserved to be voted down in the Senate.
He wrote that the fee would hurt the sick, the poor and indigenous people, hamper preventive health efforts such as vaccinations, and be difficult for doctors in some settings, such as nursing homes, to collect.
''Ideology has pushed this proposal too far,'' he wrote.
Associate Professor Owler rejected Health Minister Peter Dutton's claim that health spending was growing at an unsustainable rate and an overhaul was needed to ensure the survival of Medicare.
''As a proportion of federal government expenditure, health expenditure has actually fallen - from 18.1 per cent in 2006-07 to 16.1 per cent in 2012-13,'' he wrote.
The sharpening of the AMA's position is a blow to Mr Dutton, who has taken to claiming the organisation's in-principle support for the controversial change.
Former adviser to Tony Abbott Terry Barnes, whose submission to the Commission of Audit proposing a $6 fee placed the issue on the political agenda, said Associate Professor Owler’s article amounted to ''an open declaration of war on the government over who sets health policy’’.
The AMA is saying, 'We decide who comes to Medicare and the circumstances in which they come','' he said.
''The government’s co-payment measure needs reworking but the co-payment principle itself is sound; even the AMA concedes that. They have to. The AMA’s surgeon, anaesthetist and specialist members despise bulk-billing and ignore both Medicare and private health insurance rates.
"The underlying hypocrisy of the AMA’s latest stand against GP co-payments and for GP bulk-billing, while its specialist members merrily plunder patients’ pockets, is breathtaking."