Imminent changes to Medicare spark heart disease fears

A leading Australian heart charity is calling on the government to overhaul the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) items for heart checks to ensure all heart conditions are covered. 

In 2021, MBS items 699 and 177 were added, allowing patients to receive an annual cardiovascular disease (CVD) check from a medical professional. The items were intended as a temporary measure and are set to expire on 30 June. 

The items are currently under review, and heart health charity hearts4heart has teamed up with prominent cardiologists to urge authorities to keep the items and even expand their scope. 

While the checks have undoubtedly picked up more heart disease cases than would have otherwise been detected, hearts4heart CEO and founder Tanya Hall says focusing too much on one condition risks cases of other, less well-known heart conditions falling through the cracks. 

“It is great to see health assessments focused on heart disease prevention, but it is not practical to have a health assessment that focuses on one disease in isolation,” Ms Hall says. 

“There are many different types of heart disease, and focusing primarily on CVD overlooks patients at risk of other heart conditions, such as heart valve disease.” 

Heart valve disease (HVD) is a chronic condition affecting more than half a million people in Australia, mostly older people. Incidences of HVD have grown significantly since 1990, leading some experts to label it the next ‘cardiac epidemic’. 

The condition is characterised by damage or dysfunction in the four main valves of the heart (aortic, mitral, pulmonic and tricuspid valves), causing reduced blood flow through the organ. 

In a quirk of the system, the current MBS rules don’t allow patients to claim this health check if they have received any other type of MBS-covered medical assessment in the previous 12 months. 

That can be problematic, especially for older Australians, as people with heart trouble are also more likely to have other health issues concurrently. It’s likely that some cases of HVD and other heart issues have gone unnoticed as a result. 

Associate Professor Dion Stubbs, cardiologist at Melbourne’s Alfred hospital, says the Medicare system needs to look at the overall health of an individual, rather than just their specific complaints at the time. 

“Our healthcare system should be holistic and focus on prevention,” he says. 

“GPs also need MBS funding to conduct thorough follow-up appointments with patients, if further tests have been warranted, to talk through their results, including things like cholesterol levels and blood pressure.” 

Have you had your heart checked? Should heart checks become a permanent part of the MBS? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Also read: Scientists find way to heal scars left behind by heart attacks

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. First I’ve heard of this scheme. I had a heart attack in Jan 2019 and dodged a bullet, no open heart, no stent. I looked at it as a warning shot. Had been on blood pressure and cholesterol meds for a year before that, still am. I’ve had two GPs since that time and neither have mentioned it either. Currently looking to make an appointment with a third, the last two stopped bulk billing. Enough to give anyone a heart attack atm. Items 699 and 177 should remain permanent on the MBS and there should be a strong ‘grass roots’ push to get it done. The whole med systems needs a goods overhaul.

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