Radiologists call for pensioner rebates for X-rays

Radiologists fume over gaps paid by pensioners who cannot access X-ray rebates.

Radiologists call for pensioner rebates for X-rays

The peak body for radiologists has vowed to continue fighting to have a 20-year freeze on Medicare rebates for diagnostic services lifted, saying it disadvantages pensioners.

The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association (ADIA) is fuming that the Federal Government appears to be ignoring its pleas to widen subsidies to help millions of elderly people access potentially life-saving scans.

“The Government continues to pretend it has fixed the problem by indexing just seven per cent of the radiology items listed on Medicare – and then not until 2020,” ADIA Senior Policy Adviser Chris Kane told YourLifeChoices.

“That leaves almost 830 Medicare rebates for vital radiology services such as MRI, X-rays and ultrasound scans frozen exactly where they were in 1998. That’s why we are not letting up in our campaign to get the Government to keep its promise to Australian patients.”

In February this year, Australian radiologists escalated a campaign against the Turnbull Government’s inaction on Medicare with a new national television commercial.

The campaign reported that more than nine million Australians need radiology each year, with 26 million radiology scans and services undertaken. One in 10 GP visits results in a referral to a radiologist, with radiology essential for diagnosing, treating and managing all cancers, ADIA said.

The group has invited YourLifeChoices readers who have not been able to afford radiology scans to post their experiences on the ADIA Facebook page.

ADIA President Dr Siavash Es'haghi said the Government must be held responsible for the impact its policies are having on Medicare and patient care.

“Before the 2016 election, the Coalition collaborated with ADIA on a package of structural reforms and signed an agreement to end the 20-year freeze on Medicare rebates for radiology services when the GP rebate freeze ends,” Dr Es'haghi said.

“But the Government has not kept its promise. The GP rebate freeze is set to end on 1 July 2018, while more than 800 life-saving radiology items listed on Medicare remain frozen at 1998 levels.

“We are launching this campaign because our politicians have to realise that, if they continue to ignore the problems in Medicare, only patients [who] can pay large gaps will be able to afford the X-rays and scans they need,” he said.

“They know what the problems are. The Turnbull Government commissioned its own independent report by Deloitte that found a $711 million black hole in annual Medicare funding for radiology.

“Patients are suffering. The funding black hole means that 10 per cent of Australia’s most vulnerable patients – pensioners and concession cardholders – are not able to access bulk-billed X-rays and scans, and that more patients each year are forced to pay gaps. Average gaps are at $100 and are still rising.

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

Mr Kane added that making scans harder to access “means that older Australians are having to wait longer to be diagnosed, or are missing out on being diagnosed until it’s too late to catch the condition when it’s most treatable.

“We know that the earlier conditions are diagnosed, the easier and less expensive they are to treat. When diagnosis is left too late, patients need more complex treatment and often require extensive hospital stays. This is obviously more expensive to the patient and to the Government’s health budget,” he said.

Dr Es'haghi said ADIA would continue escalating its campaign until the Turnbull Government delivered on its promise.

“The nine million Australian patients who rely on radiology every year deserve to be treated better than this,” he said.

Have you been left out of pocket from X-ray costs? Do you feel you would have benefited more from a health diagnosis if you had been able to access subsidised scan? 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    5th Apr 2018
    I have almost always been able to access X-rays and other radiology services who bulk bill. The only exception was a procedure which needed a couple of test X-rays to see if I was a suitable candidate. It said I was, but to have the actual procedure I had to pay, the gap fee was $500! I am on a pension....not good
    5th Apr 2018
    This is a poor attempt to use pensioners for the radiographer's own agenda. In 2016 there were approximately 3.7 million Australian over 65. The article says:

    "The campaign reported that more than nine million Australians need radiology each year, with 26 million radiology scans and services undertaken."

    This means that even if every single person over 65 required an xray (they don't of course) they still make up only 1/3 of people who do. And those who do are a long way from 26 million services (incidentally that is just over 1 for every man, woman and child in Australia).

    They are simply using pensioners to bolster their demand for more money from the Government. If scans are in short supply, ALL people find it difficult to find one. And they all have to pay not just pensioners.
    5th Apr 2018
    This is an odd article. Pensioners can get bulk billed radiology services. Its the rest of us who get a bill shock.
    I found the best way to get bulked billed radiology was to go to a bulk billed GP first.
    Go to a fee paying doctor and they will send you to a fee paying radiologist and if you didn't have wallet hip pain you will after they have finished.
    8th Apr 2018
    I'm not a pensioner. I'm a self funded retiree. Even if your GP bulk bills the Radiology Services in SA all ask for you have a concession card at all. If not you will be charged an excess. e,g, I had to have an Ultrasound because of suspected Gall Bladder issue. Gap was $135.00
    5th Apr 2018
    There is considerable over-servicing of radiologogical diagnostic and treatment X-rays and scans. Many are not-evidenced based. Yet doctors and radiologists continue to order X-rays, MRI and other scans them even though they Are of little or no benefit. In part the ‘freeze’ was put in place on services where overservicing and over-charging with no health benefit was taking place. Radiologists aren’t worried about pensioners per se they are worried that they can’t use Medicare as their private money pot.
    5th Apr 2018
    None of the Government cares about older Australia Pensiones... and to put food on the table and roof over heads with the power just going up and up... and if we get sick so hard to find the money to have all of the tests like MRI xray scan done... what is this country coming too.So so sad..

    5th Apr 2018
    Yeah yeah yeah - so they want to rip off the taxpayer by charging more
    This is what socialised medicine does - allows doctors to rip off the taxpayer instead of competitively pricing in a free market
    6th Apr 2018
    There is a "free" market out there Raphael if you have enough money to pay for it. That competitive pricing is hefty but it's there if you have enough money. Gee you can even have your own doctor on call. Isn't that great. Very large retainer is needed but that's the "free" market at it's finest.
    5th Apr 2018
    A few years back my doctor sent me for an x-ray I was hit for a gap payment, when he sent me for another procedure, a friend told me he used a medical clinic that didn't charge a gap, so I rang them and they told me that I could use their facilities for the procedure, which I did. When I went back to the doctor he wasn't happy that I had gone to a different place for the procedure, I asked him if the place I went to was qualified and competent and he agreed that they were. I have often wondered if he was getting a kick back!
    5th Apr 2018
    It's frustrating sitting in the waiting room and people hand over their medicare card and don't pay a gap fee, but you are charged hundreds of dollars for the same procedure. I told my Doctor I can't afford the gap, so she writes bulk billed on the referral. I may be over the limit for a Health Care Card, but a $4-500 gap is a lot out of my take home pay.
    6th Apr 2018
    Often if self funded retirees develop illness they can't afford to remain self funded so need to spend down assets to be eligible for the concessions which can be worth up to $5000 a year depending on the costs of tests and medication.

    A retired accountant friend had to do that when diagnosed and another when her spouse developed early onset dementia. They just could not afford the costs without the government assistance packages available to those on welfare payments.
    5th Apr 2018
    In 2016 Radiologists came in with the 11th highest average income in Australia according to the ATO. It was $386,003! And they want pensioners to support increases in Medicare rebates? They are just trying to fatten their wallets so they can take the number 1 spot on income!

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