Parties lashed on ‘MRIs for votes’

Parties promise more machines, but ignore costs, says key body.

Parties lashed on ‘MRIs for votes’

It’s being called an “arms race” and “window dressing”. The promises are flowing ahead of the next federal election, with extra MRI machines being promised by both the Coalition and the Labor Party.

The Coalition has announced it will deliver 30 Medicare-licensed MRI machines in key locations at a cost of $175 million if re-elected, and Labor has promised an extra 20 – also in key locations, if elected.

Neither party has released details of how and where it intends to award licences.

MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging devices are used to detect a range of conditions, including cancer and heart disease.

At present, there are 348 MRI machines available to the public, but a full Medicare rebate can be claimed for only 174 machines. The other 174 are partially licensed, which affects the capacity to bulk bill.

The Coalition has issued only five licences since 2013, and the Medicare rebate for MRI scans has not been increased in 20 years.

Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association president Siavash Es'haghi said in a statement that the funding announcements were “political window dressing” that did nothing to make the scans more affordable. He said that average out-of-pocket costs were $100 for radiology services.

“In Australia, we restrict access (to MRI diagnosis) and, at every election, we see the major parties exchange MRI licences for votes.

“Already there are 300,000 Australians foregoing treatment every year because of cost. We are creating a two-tiered health system between the haves and the have-nots – and that’s not what Medicare is supposed to be.

“So, if you can't afford access to services like X-rays and ultrasounds, announcements around more MRI licences are going to do nothing to reduce your hip-pocket pain. This MRI arms race between Labor and the Coalition is just political window dressing.”

Dr Es’haghi said there should be a transparent process to ensure that all Australians can access MRI services, not just those in politically important electorates.

He also wants further increases in Medicare rebates to help patients access medical scans, arguing that rebates for scans were 20 years behind where they should be.

Healthcare continues to be a significant burden on older Australians, with the latest cost-of-living increases again driving home that point.

Australia Institute chief economist Matt Grudnoff told YourLifeChoices that medical and hospital services had risen 3.1 per cent in the June quarter, driven mainly by increases in the cost of private health insurance.

Health had the largest impact on Constrained Couples (homeowners on a full or part Age Pension), he said, but had also affected the Affluent tribes (privately funded homeowners).

“This is primarily because Constrained Couples spend the largest proportion of their income on health,” he said. “Cash-Strapped Couples (renters on an Age Pension) spend the smallest proportion of their income on health and so it impacted them the least.”

Are you sceptical about the announcements of extra MRI machines? Do you believe they will be located in the regions that need them the most?

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    COMMENTS

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    sunnyOz
    25th Sep 2018
    10:48am
    Little use more machines if you cannot pay for the test. I am trying to help a friend at the moment, she was quoted $485, and that she would need a few, ongoing. Simply could not afford it, so she is not having them done. Stupid thing is, the Health system will need to spend more dollars when her condition becomes serious. Stupid vote catching empty promises from idiots who have no idea of the costs that they never have to put their hand in to their own pockets for.
    KB
    25th Sep 2018
    1:04pm
    sunnyoz they should waive the cost for people who really need the tests and cannot afford to pay. Good on you for helping your friend
    Hobbit
    25th Sep 2018
    11:16am
    Stop overcharging is the best way to cut costs. Twice I've had a CT scan without contrast only to notice later it was bulk-billed as with contrast. Another occasion I had both hands X-rayed, a single shot but it was bulk-billed as two shots. I have reported the overcharging to Medicare and Professional Services Review. Neither replied.
    Anonymous
    25th Sep 2018
    11:51am
    I had something similar, Hobbit, with a doctor. I was hospitalised for about 10 days and when I took the paperwork to the health fund I mentioned that the doctor had billed for daily visits. When I mentioned that he had never been there I was told that the health fund pays anyway. They had proof that another doctor had billed for three visits at 11.00am on the same day at three locations kilometres apart and when they challenged the claim the doctor told the health fund that he would see them in court.

    25th Sep 2018
    11:59am
    I believe that the promises will be kept but as to whether they will be sited in the right places, that's another story altogether. It's odds on that none of the MRI machines will be licensed in safe seats but will be a part of the usual pork barrelling in swinging seats. It matters little which side you cast your vote for, if you live in a safe seat you'll get the normal 3/4 of 5/8 of bugger all.
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    12:08pm
    We now have one in the public hospital but for years had one in the private hospital across the road but you could only have access to it if you paid for it without a Medicare rebate. Now we have 2 machines that are less than half used as they are now both bulk billed under Medicare. Our health system has so much wastage now and they want to throw more money at it.
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    12:04pm
    There are now a lot of privately owned MRI machines but the government will not allow medicare rebates for those who use them. Seems stupid to me to buy more machines when they are already available. Also we have radioactive tests now available where you get the use of the machine for free but have to pay for the radioactive contrast.
    Anonymous
    25th Sep 2018
    12:20pm
    I haven't read anywhere that the government is buying more MRI machines, OG. I believe that the announcements are all about granting licenses to existing owners. That will be an interesting exercise to see who gets the new licenses, will it depend on a political donation?
    KSS
    25th Sep 2018
    12:22pm
    It's about the license not the machine. You only get a Medicare rebate if the machine is licensed to do that. Whether this new promise is for more hardware or new licenses applied to existing machines is unclear.
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    12:25pm
    Another 'unanticipated outcome', KSS - or a deliberate overlooking in formulating this 'policy' idea??

    Not that I'm cynical or nothin'.... I've seen what governments get up to in their prurient self-interest....
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    12:29pm
    Not just political donation, OM - a bit of the old political donation along with a careful study of where the party's best interests lie... one needs to consider vote capture in determining priorities, you know... not just the best health outcomes (buzz word) for the most...

    Not cynical... nah, nah... s'all lies, 'at is...
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    12:29pm
    Licence or not it is still a very wasteful thing that happened with the two machines at the two hospitals near me. I was referred to the private one by the public hospital but couldn't get it done at a suitable time so rang the public hospital and was told that I had been referred tot eh wrong machine and could I come in that afternoon.
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    12:16pm
    Well..... they have to find something to back up their claims that healthcare and particularly aged healthcare are costing the farm and the furniture and the cutlery as well...

    Fortunately I get mine free - so far... planning to be a burden on the economy as I age.. get some of my own back...
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    12:22pm
    Yes you get the healthcare they provide for free. However you are not getting the best healthcare that is available. It is truly amazing the healthcare that is now available to the wealthy but not available under Medicare or private health insurance..
    Anonymous
    25th Sep 2018
    12:42pm
    Let's hope that your "burden on the economy" will not be a burden on the health budget Bob.
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    12:49pm
    Oh... certainly less than the burden from the average politician, OM.... plenty more where that came from..... might as well use those half-utilised machines...
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    1:17pm
    It may cost you to use them.
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    3:14pm
    Not yet...
    TREBOR
    25th Sep 2018
    3:15pm
    ... and I don't like to use politicians if I can avoid it... any more than I would like companion flies on a trip to Canada as advertised below sometimes...
    Old Geezer
    25th Sep 2018
    5:52pm
    Pension must be way too much if you can afford to fly to Canada.
    Hairy
    25th Sep 2018
    1:24pm
    Elections on the way smoke and mirrors is all it it. Neither party are interested in real people only numbers st the ballot box.OMG they have discovered that parliament is just a kindergarten and is an embarrassment to the world ?????.shows how dumb these duckwits are. We the common people’s have been saying this for over a decade.liars cheats rorters say wat you like no one is believing you.
    Rustle In The Grass
    25th Sep 2018
    10:18pm
    Mt Dr refrred me for a Cat Scan on my knee. He used one of the 'big boys' referrals and made mention of the fact that there 'would be a gap'... after a previous experience I called around and found a bulk billing service and it saved me $120. I see the Dr next week (he has a gap so should be giving me the best of service as there are other good bulk billing doctors in our area) and he will be told in no uncertain terms that promoting the 'big boys' is not always in the best interests of their patients.


    Tags: health, mri, scans, machines,

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