AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, today said there should be an immediate increase in the pension, to protect the health of older Australians.
"We're hearing reports in the media of pensioners skipping meals so they can pay their bills, or staying in bed all day because it's cheaper," Dr Capolingua said.
Advertisement"Clearly this threatens the health of an already vulnerable population.
"The World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health recently reported that being poor is the biggest single risk factor for poor health and early death - it is not acceptable that Australian pensioners live on the poverty line."
Not only is the cost of living rising faster than the pension, but extra financial pressure was put on pensioners recently when the PBS safety net threshold rose from $274.40 to $290 a year.
"Pensioners tend to be high users of health and medical services, and many of them need to buy a lot of medicines over a year," Dr Capolingua said.
"$290 is a lot of money for somebody on a pension."
In January, the PBS co-payment for concession card holders rose from $4.40 to $5.00.
"As a GP, I see older patients who worry about being able to afford all their medicines. They have to be reassured about taking necessary medications properly and not trying to 'save' by missing or not taking tablets," Dr Capolingua said.
"Pensioners should not have to put their health at risk by dropping a medication as a result of their fixed pension income and other rising costs."
The AMA expects further pressure on pensioners as private health insurance premiums go up as a result of the Government's changes to the Medicare levy surcharge.
"The predicted fall-out in private health insurance rates will mean higher premium increases," Dr Capolingua said.
"Many pensioners save to buy the security of private health insurance and may no longer be able to afford to do so.
"In fact, currently more than one million people with private health insurance live in households with an annual gross income of less than $26,000.
"It's incumbent on the Government to ensure that pensioners are able to afford the basic goods and services they need to stay as healthy as possible. The investment will provide positive returns."
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