Government’s debt recovery powers increased

2 Aug 2018

New amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973, strengthening the Government’s debt recovery powers and seeking to tackle the role of corporate entities in billing under Medicare, have recently been passed by Parliament.

The Health Legislation Amendment (Improved Medicare Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2018 was passed by both houses of Parliament on 28 June 2018.

From 1 July this year medical practitioners who have a compliance debt raised against them and who fail to enter in to an agreement to repay that debt can have their future bulk-billed payments reduced or set off by up to 20 per cent to repay that debt. If the medical practitioner does not bulk-bill, the new arrangements will allow garnisheeing of other funds owed to them.

From 1 July 2019 a Shared Debt Recovery Scheme will come into effect. Where contractual or other arrangements exist between a practitioner and an employer or corporate entity, both may be held responsible for the repayment of the debt. To date all the liability for a Medicare debt has been with the individual practitioner, except in cases where another party has engaged in fraud.

The aim of this measure is for a fairer assignment of liability and to facilitate greater billing assurance from a practice as well as from a practitioner level.

This is a proposal that the AMA strongly supported as part of improving debt recovery arrangements.