The AMA welcomes the Government’s Review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the establishment of the Primary Health Care Advisory Group.
But, in welcoming the review announcements, AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said it is frustrating for the AMA and the medical profession that health policy announcements continue to be overshadowed by the Government’s desire to find Budget savings.
“We are pleased that both the MBS Review Taskforce and the Primary Health Care Advisory Group will be led by eminent and highly-regarded clinicians, and that both reviews will be based on frontline medical evidence and experience,” A/Prof Owler said.
“It is important that the MBS represents and promotes high quality contemporary medical practice.
“The AMA and the medical profession will work closely with the Government and the Taskforce to ensure Medicare reflects best practice clinical care and provides the highest quality and easily accessible services to patients.
“But the ongoing freeze of Medicare rebates threatens to undermine the good intentions of these reviews.
“At a time when the Government should be increasing its investment in general practice, the rebate freeze will eat away at the viability of individual practices.”
A/Prof Owler said that the reviews should not be driven by a push to find immediate savings.
“Putting Budget savings ahead of good health policy will make it harder for doctors to provide efficient and affordable health services. The reviews must not be about cutting vital services to patients.
“Freezing Medicare rebates for four years is simply winding back the Government’s contribution to patients’ health care costs. The freeze will also have a knock-on effect that could ultimately lead to higher private insurance premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.
“If doctors absorb the freeze, their practices will become unviable.
“The AMA will work with the Government to make Medicare more efficient and to improve the delivery of primary care services.
“We will continue to push for the scrapping of the Medicare rebate freeze, and we will work to ensure that patient access to quality health care services is maintained,” A/Prof Owler said.