GP Network News Issue 12 Number 39
The AMA has read with interest the recent commentary in relation to the above application and the lack of understanding within other stakeholder bodies and some parts of the medical media about what the application seeks to achieve on behalf of GP members.
At its heart, the AMA's application to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asks for legal protection for GP members engaging in intra-practice price setting, including in negotiations with hospitals and Medicare Locals. If granted, it means that AMA members would not be left in an uncertain legal position and do not have to go to the expense of legal advice and the like if they wish to engage in the above activities. We know that intra-practice price setting is a common occurrence, allowing practices to offer patients a clear and consistent fee structure.
The AMA's application does not mean that AMA members have the exclusive right to engage in these activities and suggestions to the contrary are simply misleading. The legal position of GPs and practices will vary according to individual circumstances and the AMA has never suggested, in the absence of ACCC authorisation, that all such arrangements will be in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act . Indeed, this was communicated to the AMA in correspondence from the ACCC that stated:
Although it is appreciated that doctors practise in a strong collegiate environment, in the absence of any authorisation, agreements between competing general practitioners on fees to patients and hospitals can raise concerns under the competition provisions of the CCA.Whether specific conduct breaches the CCA depends upon the circumstances and I am not in a position to provide you with such advice.
The AMA application, which is funded from subscriptions paid by GP members, simply seeks to give these members peace of mind and put any legal issues beyond doubt. Any GP can join the AMA and we note that other medical organisations offer a range of benefits that are restricted to members only. The AMA does a great deal of work that benefits all GPs and that philosophy will not change as a result of this application.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said this week that the ongoing refusal by the States and Territories to help fund medical intern places threatens to send significant numbers of our future doctors to the scrap heap.
“No intern place, no medical career – it’s as simple as that,” Dr Hambleton said.
“Medical training is a shared responsibility of all our governments. The Commonwealth has acted in good faith to find funding for 100 of the remaining 182 places needed to ensure all graduates can complete their training.
“The States must now chip in and finalise the agreement with the Commonwealth immediately. Producing a medical workforce to meet the health needs of the Australian people, wherever they may live, must be a top priority for all levels of government.
“We would like to see a long-term national solution so we can get as many of these Australian-trained doctors into the system as possible,” Dr Hambleton said.
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The new requirements for eligibility for the PIP eHealth Incentive have been finalised and are now available. These requirements have been developed in consultation with the AMA as a member of the PIP Advisory Group. The new requirements are aimed at encouraging general practices to evolve in an achievable way with the latest developments in eHealth.
It is important to understand what the new requirements mean for your practice and to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place. Practices are encouraged to inform themselves about the new requirements now and to contact their preferred software provider about their intentions to list on the PIP eHealth Product Register. The first four requirements will need to be in place from 1 February 2013 with the fifth requirement to be in place by 1 May 2013. To be eligible for the PIP eHealth incentive practices will need to be capable of:
Supporting information, including PIP Implementation Overviews, is available on the NEHTA website at http://nehta.gov.au/pip. The PIP eHealth Incentive Guidelines is available from the Department of Human Services at http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/provider/incentives/pip/forms-guides.jsp. If you have queries email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the PIP enquiry line on 1800 222 032 between 8.30 am to 5.00 pm Australian Central Standard Time.
From 1 November 2012, cheque payments for bulk bill and DVA claims will cease. All providers currently receiving cheques for bulk bill services will need to provide Medicare with their bank account details for payment to be made by Electronic Funds Transfer. A Bank account details collection form will need to be completed for each service location.
Payments will be withheld from 1 November 2012 if providers haven’t registered their bank account details. Payments will be released as soon as Medicare has these details. Health professionals are being informed of this change through messages on cheque payment statements and the Forum newsletter.
For more information call the eBusiness Service Line on 1800 700 199 or go to http://humanservices.gov.au/healthprofessionals.
The AMA encourages medical practitioners to determine their own fees based on their own practice costs. To guide medical practitioners in determining their fees and to assist those considering moving from bulk billing to patient billing, the AMA provides members with tools and resources, which are available at http://ama.com.au/feeslist.
There is a checklist for those medical practitioners who have decided to move from bulk billing to patient billing and a template letter to explain to their patients why their fee is different to the Medicare rebate.
The AMA Gaps Poster illustrates why patients might have to pay a gap. The poster shows the effect of the difference between the indexation of Medicare Schedule fees and the Consumer Price Index and average weekly earnings. To download a A4 size poster that you may print please click here, or you can order a colour A3 size poster by emailing email@example.com or calling on (02) 6270 5400.We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.
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