A suggestion by Australia’s most populous state to charge unvaccinated people for COVID-19 medical costs has received widespread criticism. The New South Wales proposal has angered doctors and some federal politicians, who argue that health care in Australia is free and universal.
The New South Wales government has said that unvaccinated patients being treated for COVID-19 have been irresponsible and have burdened taxpayers with “very substantial costs.” And they could be forced to pay for their hospital care.
“There already is two classes of the hospital system because you have got the unvaccinated that are there because they have not been taking responsibility for their actions, and you have got the vaccinated there who have got a genuine requirement for health care, said State Transport Minister David Elliott.
But members of Australia’s federal government have been skeptical about making unvaccinated COVID-19 patients pay for their treatment. The Australian Medical Association said the proposal was “unethical,” and it doubted that it was even legal.
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr. Karen Price, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that it would affect disadvantaged communities.
“We might make all sorts of judgments on people who smoke or have an unhealthy lifestyle, and the unvaccinated would be a large cohort of those people who might have low health literacy, and we know in some of our Indigenous communities where vaccination rates are low, this would be an unethical procedure to implement,” he said.
Ninety percent of eligible Australians are fully vaccinated.
On Thursday, New South Wales recorded 5,715 COVID-19 cases — a new daily record for any Australian jurisdiction during the pandemic.
Testing clinics have been overwhelmed as Australians rush to be screened ahead of Christmas. A negative result is required for travel between various states and territories.
Western Australia has become the first jurisdiction to introduce mandatory COVID-19 booster shots for certain sections of its population.
It is also reintroducing internal border controls with Tasmania and the Northern Territory to try to curb the spread of the omicron variant. Entry into Western Australia from other parts of the country will be prohibited without an exemption.