Leura's Korey Gunnis stars in national health debate

He’s become a star on national TV and the twitterverse following an emotional appearance on ABC’s Q&A this month.

Leura's Korey Gunnis, pictured here on the ABC's Q&A program on May 19, gave Treasurer Joe Hockey an insight on national TV into how budget policy would affect him.

Leura's Korey Gunnis, pictured here on the ABC's Q&A program on May 19, gave Treasurer Joe Hockey an insight on national TV into how budget policy would affect him.

Leura’s Korey Gunnis asked the treasurer Joe Hockey a question about his disability and how he was supposed to cope with the new “heartless” $7 Medicare co-payment.

The sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, asthma, hearing loss, anxiety and clinical depression was told by the treasurer he would not have to pay it. 

On websites around the country, Mr Gunnis was later labelled a Labor Party stooge for leaving the treasurer embarrassed and off guard.

“He must have been a Labor party plant,” said Iain Hall on one news website.

But what most Australians didn’t realise was Mr Gunnis has previously worked as a casual employee of the Liberal State Member for Blue Mountains, Roza Sage, who had earlier expressed concerns about aspects of the federal budget.

“The budget raises serious questions for health and education services,” Mrs Sage said. “The premier and treasurer will now need to have extensive discussions with their federal counterparts about what it will mean for NSW.

“It is vital that as the state government we fight to ensure the people of NSW get the funding they deserve for these fundamental services.”

Mr Gunnis’s concerns about cost shifting in health have been confirmed by the Australian Medical Association.

The new budget measures mean most Australians will pay a flat fee of $7 every time they visit a GP or need certain other types of medical screening. 

A chronic disease sufferer would still attract the $7 co-payment, paying for the first 10 visits annually, former AMA president, Dr Steve Hambleton said, adding there was also a 60 cent increase per script for medications. 

Dr Hambleton said “people with chronic disease are likely to pay the co-payment for most of their normal visits to the doctor, which would be considered standard consultations”.

The AMA president said his group needed to see doctors boost general practice to manage chronic problems and “state governments are rightly concerned there’s going to be a flood of people coming into emergency departments”.

Dr Hambleton said he was concerned for low income earners and “special cases like Korey’s” .

“We’re in favour of safety nets to protect people like him. How do we make sure they don’t get excluded from primary care?” he asked.

“And how we are supposed to handle those people ... if they defer medical care?”

While not opposed to the co-payment in general, Dr Hambleton said there was “12 months before it comes in” and the AMA would continue lobbying the government to look at better outcomes for those with very low incomes, chronic conditions, the aged care and dementia patients and patients in indigenous communities.

“We have been saying since January this is going to be a problem for low income earners,” he said.

Mr Gunnis told the Gazette he had been “struggling a bit” with all the attention but was pleased for the AMA’s support. He said he did not feel equipped to become a face for the campaign and was currently not working. He left Mrs Sage’s employment about three weeks ago.

Mr Gunnis said his grievances were not politically motivated, offering up that “Roza’s a nice person and does a lot for the community ... it was just me being me”.


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