Australians will soon pay more to visit a doctor under discreet changes to the public healthcare system. The Medicare changes, which will take effect from 19 January, could save the government billions of dollars. People will pay an extra A$20.10 ($16; £11) to see a doctor for a short consultation, after Medicare slashes its contribution to their bills. The move follows the government’s failure last year to legislate for a controversial A$7 fee to see a GP.

The increase was brought in two days before Christmas with no official announcement but has only just been picked up by the Australian media. Medicare has been paying A$37.05 towards short GP visits, lasting under 10 minutes, made by millions of patients every year. It will now pay A$16.95. The government plans a further A$5 cut to GP rebates from 1 July. The Medicare rebate has been frozen – with adjustments only for inflation – for nearly six years.

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