Major parties unite on heart checks

The Liberal and Labor parties have announced their support for comprehensive heart health checks to be financed by Medicare.

Labor announced that in government it would spend $170 million on a new Medicare item for comprehensive heart health checks to support doctors in better preventing, detecting and managing heart disease.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has also announced that from 1 April this year there will be a dedicated Medicare item to support GPs to assess cardiovascular risk.

Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells supported the announcements and expected them to make considerable inroads into addressing heart health issues.

“Even though there is one case of heart attack or stroke occurring in Australia every five minutes, too many Australians don’t realise the importance of checking how their heart is performing,” Ms Wells explained. “This check should nudge more patients and their doctors to make that check.

“We also need to do much more in the way of preventive health measures, to educate people and promote better diet and lifestyles to reduce obesity and other chronic illnesses that increase the risk of heart disease. 

“The heart check plan is a good down payment in the wider investment we need in prevention. It should also provide support for general practice to better prevent and manage chronic disease in enrolled patients. We will be watching the development of those approaches with much interest.

“The suggestion that this heart health check be part of a Medicare-funded comprehensive health check for other lifestyle risk factors should be embedded in the Health Care Home enrolment model, making the most of general practitioners as the accessible, appropriate and trusted setting for preventive health care.

“However, we need to acknowledge that a new Medicare item number is not an end in itself. Such a development needs to be accompanied by a package of wider reforms that include patient supports such as self-management programs, access to health coaching and use of patient activation measures by GPs so they better understand the likelihood that patients are receptive to and will follow up on lifestyle advice,” Ms Wells said.

Would a Medicare-funded heart check encourage you to have check-ups more regularly?

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