Catholic Health Australia has warned that free rapid tests to concession card holders won’t tackle the ongoing issue of price gouging making tests available for most Australians.
In a letter to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, CHA Chief Executive Pat Garcia warns with COVID-19 moving virtually unchallenged throughout the community, governments and Australians need accurate information on the virus’s prevalence, and their own health status.
But the decision to subsidise RATs only for those already receiving government payments is flawed.
“Fully funding COVID-19 testing, as government’s have done since the start of the pandemic, is a very cost-effective way to help manage the enormous public health challenge COVID-19 presents,” Mr Garcia says.
“It is untenable to ask Australians to exercise personal responsibility for managing the risk of COVID-19 without ensuring they have the tools to do so.
“Many Australians beyond concession card holders will find routinely paying for RATs for their entire family beyond their means. This approach also does not allow for price control, or the economies of scale brought about by bulk government purchases.”
Mr Garcia says making the tests free will remove incentives for price gouging, but plans by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to “name and shame” profiteers may reward them.
“In the current climate this will be tantamount to providing free advertising for those retailers who have stock of RATs to be sold at high prices to wealthier Australians.”
Mr Garcia says RATs may be a chance to improve COVID-19 reporting, possibly through a system like those found overseas, where free tests include a QR code allowing patients to self-report their results.
“Highlighting more accurate statistics around vaccination is important in allowing Australians to manage their own risk,” Mr Garcia says. “It is also likely to lead to a more rapid take up of booster vaccination.”