Pap Smears, The Phantom $30 Increase and Australia’s Trust Issues With The Coalition

Words by: Jonathon Davidson

Earlier this week, you were most likely outraged when you found out that the price of a pap smear for all Australian women was allegedly going to rise to $30, along with STI tests, blood tests, and imaging procedures like MRIs for everybody else. At face value, this is pretty abhorrent. Why should women have to pay for a life saving checkup in 2016? Why were prostate cancer examinations not included in the price rise? There’s a good chance that you saw this change.org petition, and maybe even signed it.

What you may not have noticed, is that almost immediately after this petition was created by Brigitte Garozzo of NSW, health.gov released this official online document from the office of Sussan Ley, outlining that alleged changes to the prices of pap smears were untrue. Sussan Ley also came out on facebook and wrote the following status, which was included in a Pedestrian.tv interview with Ms. Garozzo, but promptly ignored among further discussion about the price changes. 

Here is that facebook post, and if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to:

At this point, there are two important facts being left out.

Firstly: pap smears are being replaced on the bulk billing scheme by a molecular screening procedure for cervical cancer which you can read about here. 

Secondly: the alleged cost hike to $30 for pap smears, and further warnings from “pathologists” about patients being disinclined to take part in procedures, are coming from the media departments of corporate pathology associations making revenue from these procedures from the government. Media reports and independent analysis everywhere is completely ignoring this fact – that big dollar doctors stand to lose money.

So far, all warnings on cost rises are coming from Pathologists. Triple J’s hack interviewed Dr. Harrison from the Royal College of Pathologists Australasia who told their reporters that while the $30 estimate is a stab in the dark, the price could rise much higher. He says that it’s ridiculous our government is trying to disguise the cuts as not that bad.

Interestingly, the Royal College of Pathologists Australasia receives a lot of money from the Australian government, and it stands to lose a fair portion if incentives are cut and other pathologists start offering their services for cheaper.

It seems to me that Gen Y are so untrusting, so scarred by the Abbott leadership, that we are now incapable of trusting the coalition, and will believe all negative reports without doing any substantial fact checking for ourselves. If you do so, it’s obvious that the $30 figure was made up. Is it absolutely, 100% guaranteed impossible? No – anything could change, it’s ignorant to assume it can’t.

But it’s also ignorant to assume something probably will changeven with a 100% lack of evidence to support that, just because something something liberal party something something women’s rights something something backwards patriarchal country. And some of those criticisms are admittedly fair, but goddamn, how easily to manipulate do you wanna be?

The actual incentive payment being cut by the Liberal government maxes out at $3.40. These incentives offered to doctors in an attempt to get all Australian clinics offering bulk billing, failed to do so, only raising bulk billing rates by about 1% since 2009 according to the ABC. As Dr. Harrison told hack, it’s not as simple as $3.40, because there are added costs to everything from sending out bills to authorising documents and insurance and whatever else. But at the same time, there are over 5000 pathology groups in Australia, and competitive pricing is an upside of capitalism.

At the end of the day, we can only wait to see how the costs will change when the health budget changes, but the current wave of panic and viral opinion sharing that has occurred this week has been completely unfounded, based on vague reporting, and a frightening show of how easy it is to ultimately manipulate a mostly young and politically active populace.

I’m now going to have some of my own medicine though, and quietly hope that the prices don’t change and I won’t have to delete this article in shame later down the track.