GP Network News, Issue 12 Number 16

25 Apr 2012

Government delivers strong package for older Australians – but medical care is lacking

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the Government’s Living Longer Living Better plan, particularly its measures to assist older Australians to live in their homes for longer, is a strong response to a policy area that has been long neglected. However, he says, the Government should have gone the extra step of giving older Australians the comfort of knowing they could get access to their doctors at a time of life when they most need them.

The AMA welcomes:

  • The commitment to improve access to general practitioners through the use of video consultations.  This is something the AMA highlighted with the Government in the Telehealth initiative;
  • The provision of increased support for doctors to undertake more timely dementia diagnosis;
  • The additional funding for palliative care; and
  • That there is a safety net for the many older Australians who don’t have the financial capacity to pay for aged care.

“However, the funding for the health care aspects of the package falls well short of what is needed, and many areas of primary care for older Australians have not been addressed in this package,” Dr Hambleton said. The AMA will be seeking more details from the Minister for Health and Ageing about this matter, especially access to primary care services.

Click here to see the full press release.

Bulk billing: clarity on registration and administrative Fees

The AMA has obtained clarification from the Department of Human Services (DHS) regarding the billing of registration and administrative fees. A recent Forum article on charging co-payments and bulk billed services implied that practice registration fees and booking fees could not be raised against bulk billed patients. The AMA queried this on the basis that registration and booking fees are charges for non-clinically relevant services and as such must not be included in the charge for a Medicare item, but listed separately on the account and not billed to Medicare.

The DHS has confirmed that where the bulk billing of the professional service is not conditional on the payment of an administrative or similar fee, there is nothing to prevent medical practitioners charging these fees to their patients.

Practitioner’s are nevertheless reminded that they cannot bulk bill a service where the patient is required to pay any additional charges in relation to that service.

Dedicated MBS item required for palliative care

The AMA has called for the Medicare Benefits Schedule to include items specifically to cover palliative care.

The AMA has told a Senate Inquiry into the palliative care system that the MBS should include items that recognised the time and resources devoted by GPs in providing such care to their patients. The Inquiry heard of severe shortcomings in palliative care, particularly in the coordination of services for patients leaving hospitals who require palliative care at home. The Inquiry was told that GPs often have little, if any, notice that a patient is being discharged by their hospital, and existing Medicare rebates did not take adequate account of the time and effort required to ensure proper care was provided.

The AMA said specific schedule items were needed to cover time spent by GPs with the family and carers of patients in palliative care, and in organising vital support services. The association also recommended that telehealth items be extended to urban areas to enable rapid assessment of patients whose conditions changed quickly.

Influenza Vaccine Reminder

Following recent media reports that a number of children under the age of 5 have been immunised with Fluvax this season and consequently suffered adverse effects such as febrile convulsions, vomiting and fever, GPs are again reminded that Fluvax is not registered for use in children under 5 years of age in Australia.

As per our 5 April 2012 article, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer on 3 April 2012 issued a reminder of the influenza vaccines recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) for use with children.

Click here to view on the AMA website.

Click here for recommendations for the use of 2012 seasonal influenza vaccine by brand and age group.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.


Leading for Medical Care

The AMA National Conference is now three weeks away, register now to secure your place.

The Conference will feature keynote addresses from leaders in medical care, workshops on topical issues affecting medical practice, and policy sessions on contemporary matters affecting the Australian health system.

To view the full program please visit

Visit to register - or you can contact us by: Phone on 02 6270 5474 or by email at

In this Issue

Government delivers strong package for older Australians – but medical care is lacking

Bulk billing: clarity on registration and administrative Fees

Dedicated MBS item required for palliative care

Influenza Vaccine Reminder

Leading for Medical Care

Email the AMA

Post new comment to the website

AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community. Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing