MBS Simplification for General Practitioner Items

17 Dec 2009

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that the Government’s promised streamlining of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) has delivered a number of worthwhile reforms, but has not matched the rhetoric of the Prime Minister’s 2007 election promise to ‘simplify Medicare’.

Dr Pesce said that Australia’s hard working GPs had high hopes that GP consultation items would be comprehensively overhauled and red tape cut to a minimum so they could spend more time with their patients.  The AMA fully expected the Government to deliver on its promise to simplify Medicare but the results fall short of the expectations of many GPs, Dr Pesce went on to say.

“We can only hope that this is just the first step in an ongoing reform process.  The simplification process was undertaken on a cost neutral basis, which was clearly an impediment to more sweeping changes.

“Nevertheless, some of the changes are positive and will bring relief to long suffering GPs and their patients,” Dr Pesce said.

The Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, Dr Rod Pearce, said the AMA is very pleased to see that the definitions of long consultation items (Level C and Level D) have been clarified.

“The AMA made strong representations to the Government about longer consultations,” Dr Pearce said.

“They have listened to our arguments and now formally acknowledge that patients often visit their GP with more than one health complaint.  These consultations require more time and detail in order to provide the holistic care the patient needs.

“Further, we are pleased that the MBS will now specifically recognise the work that GPs undertake in delivering preventive health consultations, which are an important part of general practice.

“The changes also mean that if more than one GP attends a patient who is at imminent risk of death, Medicare will allow each GP to claim against Medicare for this work. Current rules only allow a claim to be made by one practitioner, no matter how many doctors are involved.  This is a situation that often occurs in rural areas.

“The other changes announced by the Government will help cut some compliance costs, but there is no doubt that a lot more could have been achieved.  The Government should have seen this as an opportunity to invest in significant MBS simplification and reform,” Dr Pearce said.

Dr Pesce said a more comprehensive overhaul could have delivered greater savings and efficiencies, and provided patients with better access to quality primary care.

“The Government still has an opportunity to pursue a broader overhaul of the MBS as part of its Primary Care Reform Strategy,” Dr Pesce said.  “The AMA wants a modern Medicare that supports improved access to care for patients and ensures that patient rebates keep up with the costs of delivering high quality health care services.”

To view the Department of Health and Ageing’s Fact Sheet outlining the changes click here.