Apprehension About Medicare Changes As More Than 900 Procedures Removed

 

OPPONENTS of changes to Medicare have been very vocal since modifications to more than 900 items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) were announced.

The changes have been made after a five-year review by medical experts who consulted with general practitioners and patients.

The review examined almost 6000 procedures to see if they reflected clinical best practice.

For example, rebates for procedures which are no longer common or are performed more efficiently have been removed.

Past changes include altering the rebate for cataract surgery from thousands of dollars to hundreds because of technological advances that have resulted in faster, cheaper, surgery.

However, critics say that the short time frame between the announcement of the changes, and their implementation on July 1, leave insufficient time for doctors, patients and health funds to properly predict their effects.

The Federal Shadow Minister for Health, Mark Butler, told News Of The Area that, with one in six items being changed, the changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule are the biggest in its history.

He said that the changes include a huge number of orthopaedic and cardiac surgery items, as well as other general surgery items.

Mr Butler said, “This repeats a pattern with this Government that has seen out of pocket costs, or the gap fees that patients pay, increase by about $10 per GP visit, and a whopping $30 for visits to specialists.

“So, in addition to the average $90 that Australians are paying every year in gap fees, they’re now going to be slugged with an additional patient bill or gap fee for surgery items as well, which is just not acceptable.”

Coffs Harbour Labor spokesperson, Tony Judge, told News Of The Area, “Despite the overwhelming support by Australians for Medicare, the Liberal and National Parties have always been opposed to the idea of universal health cover.

“They constantly look for ways to reduce the rebate paid to ordinary Australians who are struggling with their health,” he continued.

Mr Judge said the latest changes will make it much harder for people to get the health care that they need to live a full and active life and that the additional cost and uncertainty over the level of rebates will lead to many people deferring or cancelling much needed surgery.

He said that good health care should be seen as an entitlement, not a privilege.

Mr Judge said, “Health care should be funded through your Medicare card – not your credit card.”

Even though details of the changes are still vague, Mr Butler said, “The only thing that is clear is these changes will see patients ambushed with higher bills to pay for these life changing surgeries”.

The office of the Member for Cowper, Pat Conaghan, was contacted but Mr Conaghan was not available for comment.

 

By Andrew VIVIAN

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