Sleight of hand on MBS indexation
SLEIGHT OF HAND ON MBS INDEXATION
As flagged in the Federal Budget in May, the Federal Government has announced a two per cent indexation increase in fees for a number of general practitioner services, which will take effect from 1 July 2014.
The increase was posted on MBS Online last week.
AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that the AMA notes this modest increase for GP services, but warned it is inadequate and would be swallowed up by a range of cuts next year.
A/Prof Owler said that the costs of providing general practice services – includingwages for practice staff, rent, electricity, computers, continuing professional development, practice accreditation and professional insurance – are rising.
“The Government must recognise that the cost of providing medical services increases each year, as practice costs increase, and that the single fee charged by the doctor has to cover practice costs,” A/Prof Owler said.
“But there is sleight of hand at work here - the increase is small and will be short-lived.
“Patients are going to be slugged with a number of new healthcare costs next year as a result of the Budget measures.
“GP rebates will be slashed by $5.
“The Government will also take $5 off Medicare rebates for pathology and diagnostic imaging services, which haven’t been indexed for 14 years.
“The indexation of rebates for other medical services – specialist, consultant physician and psychiatry consultations, and operations and anaesthesia – last occurred on 1 November 2013 and the Government has no plans to index them again until July 2016.
“That’s an almost four-year freeze of the rebate the Government will pay towards the cost of specialist medical treatment.
“The private health insurers may decide not to carry the Government’s savings by indexing their schedules of medical benefits – they may decide to freeze indexation too.
“If that happens, there will be a drop in the current high rate of 89 per cent of privately insured services having no out-of-pocket costs.
“The Government may have offered a sweetener to the Australian public this year for GP services, but things will turn very sour with hard hitting cuts to health care next year.
“These arrangements are going to hit the most vulnerable patients in the community – the elderly, the poor, the chronically ill, and Indigenous Australians.”
A two per cent increase in the following Medicare schedule fees will apply from 1 July 2014:
- Group A1 – general practitioner attendances;
- Group A5 – prolonged attendances on a patient in imminent danger of death;
- Group A6 – group therapy;
- Group A7 – acupuncture – only GP items;
- Group A11 – urgent attendance after hours – only GP items;
- Group A14 – health assessments;
- Group A15 – GP management plans, TCA and case conferencing – only GP items;
- Group A17 – domiciliary and residential management reviews;
- Group A18 – GP attendances associated with PIP payments;
- Group A20 – GP Mental health Treatment;
- Group A22 – GP after-hours attendances;
- Group A27 – pregnancy support counselling;
- Group A29 – early intervention services for children with autism or pervasive development disorder or disability – only item 139 for GP management plan;
- Group A30 – telehealth attendances; and
- Group M1 – bulk billed incentives.
The regulations giving effect to these increases will be tabled in the Parliament in either of the weeks commencing 16 or 23 June 2014. No other MBS fees are being indexed this year.
In the 2013-14 Federal Budget, MBS indexation was ‘delayed’ (from 1 November 2013) until 1 July 2014.
The 2014-15 Federal Budget ‘pauses’ MBS indexation for all medical services - other than those listed above – for another two years.
16 June 2014
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Published: 16 Jun 2014