Medicare review could cut services

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Health Minister Sussan Ley has denied that the impending Government review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) is an attack on doctors.

Earlier this week, Ms Ley announced a review of around 5700 MBS procedures, in an attempt to rid the bloated service of unnecessary and potentially unsafe practices. As a nation, we spend around $155 billion on health each year, however, a recent investigation into the benefits schedule showed that about $46 billion is being wasted on unnecessary services.

“This is a direct attack on the integrity of the medical profession. It is an approach that undermines the confidence that patients have in their doctors,” said AMA President Dr Brian Owler. “It’s clearly a cost-cutting exercise. It’s about removing services for patients.”

But the Health Minister has denied that the intention of the review is to attack doctors, and rejected the notion that the review is merely a cost-cutting measure – however, she did admit that there were savings to be found as a result of the review.

“I am not suggesting that the MBS is being disused, I am not suggesting that doctors are doing the wrong thing, I want to make that very clear,” she said. “It’s about building the best possible health system for the 21st century. Subjecting patients to x-rays – which they probably don’t need – and going through a lot of scans, some of these things don’t necessarily cause patients harm, but the visibility of the cost is important.

“So no-one sees the costs, except I do, because the Government pays for it,” she said.

Experts have identified around 150 unsafe, inappropriate or ineffective medical services that receive Medicare and health insurance rebates.

There is also a shared belief that the current system could potentially be putting patients at risk, as well as wasting precious health dollars that could be better spent in other areas of medicine.

Early intervention tonsillectomies for children, high-density bone scans for seniors and tests on lower back pain are some of the services that could be on the chopping block when the task force reports back later this year.

Ms Ley said the Government would consult with an expert task force consisting of medical professionals to help decide on the medical issues up for debate.

“The task force itself is comprised of clinicians because the last thing I ever want it to be is the Department of Health or politicians telling doctors what Medicare should look like,” Ms Ley said.

Read more at www.abc.net.au
Read more at The Guardian

Opinion: Review is still the right answer

It would seem, that once again, the Government has put the medical profession off side, but a review of Medicare benefits may still prove beneficial to all Australians.

Australians should welcome this Government review, so long as consumers are not denied access to health services. Cutting back the number of unnecessary services – especially those that could be harmful to patients – is not a bad thing. And if the by-product of that is savings to the consumer and for the budget, then this should surely be seen as a positive move. 

However, the problem is how to decide which treatments and diagnostic tests are necessary and which are not. That is the monumental job ahead of the expert task force assigned to this review.

The AMA may be accusing Sussan Ley of undermining the confidence of doctors, which is probably a fair call.

This issue, however, does put the spotlight on the procedures that doctors order for their patients. This spotlight may be uncomfortable for doctors, and it puts the onus on patients to question doctors’ orders. Patients should ask what their options are, as well as enquire about the risks of any procedures ordered. If doctors are not happy to assist their patients, then they are in the wrong profession.

A review of Medicare hasn’t taken place since the early 1980s. Ms Ley denies that finding savings is not the main aim of the review, but should it occur, it could allow the Government to reinvest in new technologies, new services and new procedures, which would benefit us all.

What do you think? Do you think it is time that Medicare undergoes a review? Are you worried that essential health services may be victim to such a review? Would you be happy if the result of this procedure meant savings for you? 

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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142 Comments

Total Comments: 142
  1. 0
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    Well for a start I would not trust Sussan Ley as far as I could kick her, she is also a very nasty bit of work.

    Yes maybe in SOME cases Drs want to send patients for to many Xrays and CT scans and yes too many of them can expose one to too much Radiation, however MRI has NO radiation and how can you be sure of whats happening to you back / knees etc etc ans so know how to treat the problem? They are also suggesting that Colonoscopy are unnecessary too –WRONG, because IF you have an unchecked Polyp, it can turn to Cancer in time, I also noticed they were saying about Prostrate Cancer — and seemed to be saying “wait and see what transpires!!! ”

    I think we are being led down the USA path.

    The health system is in a mess now, we sure don’t need it to get any worse!

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      here I agree wholeheartedly, sadly we can do nothing as our masters in the end do what they want, who wants to work another 5 years, nobody i know but did that make any difference, the same will happen here.

    • 0
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      Oh no not down the USA path again!?
      If as you say PlanB “the health system is in a mess now” then Sussan Ley is doing the right thing at the right time is she not???

    • 0
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      It is absolutely ridiculous to number of tests they put old people through today. For heavens sake just let them die in peace without all this intervention.

    • 0
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      That’s exactly what it is, PlanB. Medicare does not compute with LNP ideology. This government wants us to be paying inflated, premiums that are increasing faster than the rate of inflation every year, to big business and, as happens in the US, the insurance company will decide how long we can be on pain killers after surgery, which surgeon/specialist we can go to, and which hospital we can be treated in. And when we can no longer afford the premiums, we will have to sell our houses to pay for lifesaving surgery/medication. It does seem that some services are over-used and possibly to our detriment, but surely this can be tightened up rather than cut. Remember this on polling day. (So many forget and revert to old habits.)

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      I for whatever reason. Do we just let them die because the government do not want to cover the cost.agree with you Plan B. The trouble is we can yell scream, do petitions, sleep on the Parliament steps but they will do what they like and we have no hope of changing it. Some people need to have scans regularly, do we do just let them die because the government do not wish to pay for another scan. PS I apologise for the mess in this email but my computer jumped back and I could not go back to fix it.

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      That does not seem very positive Pollyanna.

  2. 0
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    It is one of the governments tactics. I do not agree strongly

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      The health system is not in a mess this government wants to take everything away from the people so that they can get their surplus in order

    • 0
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      totally agree, but for politicians they will for ever increase your own age of entitlement. anything to do with the govt is a mess did 25yrs working for the govt and always finds ways to try and improve things, but every change was a shamble at millions down the drain

  3. 0
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    Suprised Susan ley didn’t use dodgy Scott morrisons Line it takes ten taxpayers to pay for your colonoscopy? They are using blame the poor and sick for using your tax dollars it worked well for the nazis. How many taxpayers’ does it take to pay one politicians wage and perks.

    • 0
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      Especially after they have left their ‘job’. That is where the mone3y is being wasted. Prior to retiring, I was on $72,350 p.a. Boy I would love to be having that now, plus free flights, and a car. no chauffeur though. Now I have the pension with an occasional back up from super. Still we have had an increase in pension of $5.10 each. A cup off coffee, and a litre of milk , Wow. Isn’t that exciting.!!!

    • 0
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      Gee FrankC you should be a millionaire now. 🙂 What happened? Did you not hear the story about the squirrel who stored away his nuts for the winter? 🙂

    • 0
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      What did you do with the $72350 FrankC? 10% a year put away for retirement would have helped a lot now.

    • 0
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      FrankC paid his taxes like most of us did and tax takes a fair slug out of $72k. Just because he was on that figure when he retired doesn’t mean he was on it for a prolonged period. Even salary sacrificing 10% wouldn’t have made him a rich man. Wouldn’t have left him a pauper but by no means rolling in money.
      Taking FrankC to task over his comment about retired politicians would seem to indicate you support the extravagance of paying someone who has had their snout in the government trough for only a few years a lifetime pension almost equal to the salary they were on. Can you imagine beginning a job at age 55, working 10 years and then retiring on a pension paid on the same scale? Which employer in the private sector would pay that? Not one, but we the bunny taxpayer pay out to the thieves sitting in parliament.

    • 0
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      Gra…. spot on. $72k is a pittance trying to raise and family and pay of a house, who would be able to have any money left over for super some people don’t live in the real world

  4. 0
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    I recently moved to a new area and new doctor. He ordered blood tests to see if I needed a change in medications for high blood pressure, and after discussion re my medical history, part of which was an operation to remove a hyperactive parathyroid gland, he ordered a blood test for bone density. Prior the operation I was in the early stages of osteoporises. This test was not covered by Medicare. Bone density scans are not covered by Medicare either if you are a woman, unless you have taken a steriod some time in the past. Surely, a test for this crippling condition, affecting many more women than men, would be more economic for the government, especially if it can delay the progression of this disease, than hospitalising the elderly for broken bones and other complications due to this disease.

  5. 0
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    and I would like to point out just who is on these committee that return the findings, all goverments stack them to return whatever outcome they want, I would not trust any government committee, or panel. I believe that the libs want a system like america, we will have all the bad from there and non a the few good things, in the land of the free, if you are not in work or rich there you do not get any medical assistance, and what is free is very hard to access due to many many more needing it than can be supplied. we will end up with nothing as far s i am concerned if the libs are in too long.

  6. 0
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    I am not aware of what will or won’t be cut. However I really can see ways to cut back on the number of dr visits. ie my hand is hurt and I need physio. A trip to the dr gets me entitlement to 5 physio trips. It comes with an xray and ultrasound that was needed. However I then need to go back to the dr for him to tell me I need to go to physio. Can’t I have my report sent directly to me and I can decide if I need to go to the Dr again. …and can’t I be granted 5 physio visits no matter what… then I wouldn’t need to go to dr in the first place and I probably wouldn’t have had the xray and ultrasound. Better still why doesn’t Medibank private included Physio as standard with optional extras.

  7. 0
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    As a health professional I frequently see tests being performed that may be unnecessary in certain instances which I feel needs to be looked into, However on saying this I feel the Govt needs to assess on an individual basis not just cut. Hypothetically a patient comes into hospital at end of life and only wants comfort care and I see doctors performing unlimited tests on these patients and is usually trainee MO’s more education is required as to what is appropriate for these patients during this time.

    • 0
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      I agree. I wasn’t sure but after seeing four corners last night, a review is needed. No unnecessary tests, but those who need should get them through Medicare. I’ve had tests which were invasive and was told, don’t think there’s anything wrong, but to be on the safe side. Will ask more questions in future.

    • 0
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      Got any to add to the list, Lci? We should assemble one early in case of (bite on soap) any rorting by this committee…

  8. 0
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    I will be quite annoyed if these tests are cancelled especially when I am in the middle of a lot of late

  9. 0
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    Anytime the government makes a review it is with an aim to make cutbacks in one area or another (except their own comfy nest) to make up for loss of revenue due to their own inept financial management. This inevitably leads to more disadvantages to the taxpayer one way or the other, either in reduced or cancelled services or another increase in taxes. We, dear friends, are in a lose-lose situation. In regards to Sussan Ley, I think she is a nasty piece of work, much from the same mold as Jackie Trad – both only interested in themselves and their further political advancement and all the trimmings that go along with being a greedy politician who always tries to get away with doing the least amount of work for the greatest amount of pay and kudos, and in that order. I’m fed up to tears with their worthless, self-seeking stunts!

  10. 0
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    What can possibly be the problem with having a review?
    I am now suspicious of those who are against a review.
    Let’s see what recommendations come from the review committee before we disagree with what we think they may uncover.

    • 0
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      Well if I had not had tests they might have treated me for something I did not have — instead of some spinal fractures and Spinal Senosis

    • 0
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      A person’s life can be full of contradictions cant it?
      So what you are saying PlanB is that you had a full review and found the source and nature of the problems before recommendations were discussed?

    • 0
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      Frank, there is nothing wrong with a review. The question is what is done with any savings resulting from the review.
      Given the depth of existing cuts to health expenditure and short changing of the States by this government, if the purpose of the review was genuinely to ensure best use of funds, then any savings would be ploughed back into other areas of health services. However we find that part of any savings will go back into consolidated revenue. This is nothing more than cost cutting by stealth, typical of this government’s tricky, sly, dishonest, legalistic approach to government.
      This government will always try to blame the victims to justify their short changing victims. As a previous correspondent has stated this technique was tried and proven succesfully by Hitler’s regime.

    • 0
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      Frank I am saying that unless I had these tests I might have been given the wrong treatment, I am still trying different meds to try and relieve the pain, so far not a lot of success.

      I have learnt to ask MANY questions to Drs as there are so many of them that don’t take enough care and can cause more trouble to the patient

    • 0
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      We’ll give ’em a fair trial then, Frank – followed by a fair hanging.

      Once trust is gone………

    • 0
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      ” if the purpose of the review was genuinely to ensure best use of funds, then any savings would be ploughed back into other areas of health services. However we find that part of any savings will go back into consolidated revenue. This is nothing more than cost cutting by stealth,” Got it in one Grumpy. This is money people are paying into Medicare, ie. the health system, that will be taken out by this government to help fix their economic mismanagement. End result keeping Medicare from working properly. Stealing from Peter (us) to pay Paul (us.) Without a single idea about how to correct the slippery slope they’ve put us on with burgeoning debt and deficit.

    • 0
      0

      Jen, what can I say? You decided to get rid of Howard with his experience and skill and install a novice with mental issues

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