The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce interim report has been released, identifying over servicing of patients in general practice as one area where consumers felt their taxpayer dollar was not well spent.
Releasing the report, Health Minister Sussan Ley said the consultations showed health professionals and consumers recognised a need for change to keep Medicare healthy and up-to-date with medical practices.
She said one in four patients surveyed believed they, or an acquaintance, had received or been recommended for a consultation, medical procedure or test they believed to be unnecessary.
“We are having a genuine conversation with the Australian people and health professionals about what they want and expect from Medicare and we appreciate the time and the effort taken by the thousands of participants in this important consultation.
“We recognise the important role clinicians undertake in keeping Australians happy, healthy and out-of hospital and this work is about delivering the right balance for health professionals, patients, taxpayers and the future of Medicare in general,” she said.
However, doctors’ groups have responded angrily to suggestions of waste and inefficiency.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners claimed the report used limited anecdotal evidence collected during the consultation and submission process making “assumptions and conclusions” without verified evidence, according to President Dr Frank R Jones.
“General practice is the most essential and efficient part of the healthcare system. In real dollars, the average cost of general practice services has not risen for over 10 years – unlike other parts of the health care system.
“Can we do things better? Absolutely. But let’s stick to the facts, not the obvious exaggeration,” Dr Jones said.
The interim report is the second public release of the consultations since the review taskforce began in mid-2015. There are a number of further consultations and recommendations to be released over the next 12 months.
The report includes feedback from over 2000 health professionals and patients across stakeholder forums, written submissions and an online survey.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the review, along with other government initiatives, aimed to cut down on low-value use of MBS items through a greater focus on integrated care and stronger rules, education and compliance.
She said the report provided an update on the activity of the review committee and further consultation would occur as individual items were identified for removal or rule changes.
“This independent clinician-led Taskforce is committed to ensuring the right patient gets the right test at the right time,” she said.