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27 Jun 2017

The Department of Health has released for public consultation, six clinical committee reports from the Medical Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce.

They were released on June 7 as the first deliverable of a revised 2017 Workplan.

These have been long awaited, and much delayed. This six are predominantly from the first and second tranches and include:

  • Renal medicine;
  • Spinal surgery;
  • Dermatology, allergy and immunology;
  • Urgent after-hours primary care services; and
  • The diagnostic imaging clinical committee – pulmonary embolism and knee imaging

The MBS Review was announced in April 2015 and with more than 30 clinical committees and working groups across six tranches, there is still got a long way to go.

The AMA has stated its support for the vision of the MBS Reviews and has committed to working with the Government to deliver on agreed final recommendations arising from the MBS Review, in conjunction with the relevant sectors.

Going forward, the AMA will continue to identify areas to improve the review process, and recommendations where we feel they fall short, or are inappropriate.

From an AMA perspective, the support for the vision of the MBS review is contingent on the review being clinician-led, with a strong focus on supporting quality patient care.

The review must therefore have:

  • a clear and overarching vision and specific direction for the Australian healthcare system to guide the final outcomes of the reviews;
  • specific and quantifiable aims;
  • the direct involvement of specialist Colleges, Associations and Societies;
  • full transparency of the individual reviews as they progress and the decisions that will come from them; and
  • the ability to add new items to the MBS.

The AMA welcomes the start of the consultation process – a critical component of getting any changes to the MBS right is ensuring that the profession has deep involvement.

The recommendations are in draft form, subject to further consultation and are not yet Government policy.

Members who feel that there are significant or technical issues relating to the proposed changes should raise them with the relevant Society, College or Association. They will be well placed to engage and represent each specialty and engage with the review on a technical level. Some colleges have already sought feedback from their profession already.

For our part, the AMA is committed to working with the medical colleges and societies as we review the recommendations, to ensure there is general acceptance by the profession, and that the proposed structure reflects best practice.

Engagement with the profession on the principles and rules that underpin the review process also remains a priority for the AMA, as we seek to ensure there is general acceptance, understanding and engagement.

Finally, the AMA Secretariat is also working with our member-based MBS Working Group – the group provides close insights to the reviews and guides AMA’s positions for public commentary. We also want to acknowledge and thank these members who volunteer their time and expertise to the review process.

It is important to note that fee structures and measures for implementing new items have not yet been specified. No doubt, that will be a contentious period, considering all 5,700 items will eventually go through the review and many will need a new fee structure alongside a new descriptor.

It will not all be smooth sailing. However, the review is an opportunity to ensure that high quality models of care are provided for in a modernised and “future proofed” MBS. Ultimately it will be up to the Government to determine what the final changes are to the MBS, however, the consultation period is an opportunity for the whole profession to have their say – including to call out inappropriate recommendations. 

To that end, clinical committees will consider feedback from stakeholders on this round of changes up until 21 July 2017. They will then provide advice to the Taskforce before making recommendations to the Health Minister for consideration by the Government.

We can expect further MBS Review consultation reports to follow, with rounds two and three likely to commence in July and August, at which point the AMA will again publicise the opportunity to be involved.

But now is your opportunity to provide feedback on these six reports. For those wishing to provide feedback directly to Government, visit www.health.gov.au and click on ‘Medicare Benefits Schedule Review – have your say’.

Chris Johnson

 


Published: 27 Jun 2017