AMA comments on ALP Discussion Paper and Draft Private Members Bill on corporate medical practice

9 May 2001

The AMA today released a comprehensive response to the ALP's Discussion Paper and Draft Private Members Bill on Corporate Medical Practice, which was circulated for comment by Shadow Health Minister, Jenny Macklin, last month.

AMA President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, said today that, after careful and detailed consideration by its Executive Council, the AMA has concluded that the ALP proposals are too heavy-handed on individual doctors.

"The proposed ALP legislation focuses on doctor behaviour rather than corporate behaviour, and is centred on imposing penalties on individual doctors," Dr Phelps said.

"Under this proposal, the corporations suffer very little risk of exposure.

"This is not only unfair to doctors, but also serves to deny the reality that it is the corporations that hold the real bargaining power under the contractual arrangements that the AMA has examined to date.

"It is the AMA's view that any legislation should protect doctors from commercial pressures exerted by corporations, not punish doctors who may succumb to those pressures.

"While the proposals may be well-intentioned, everything is pointed at the doctors and not their corporate employers. There is also a penalty on patients by withholding their Medicare entitlements if there is an infringement of the proposed legislation."

Dr Phelps said that, in many respects, the proposed ALP legislation simply duplicates State legislation, adds new layers of red tape, and does not properly target the source of potential pressure on doctors.

"While it is pleasing that the ALP is looking seriously at the corporate medical practice issue, this effort is very disappointing," Dr Phelps said.

"Doctors have the least bargaining power in the corporate/doctor relationship, yet the legislation targets them specifically. This is wrong.

"The AMA would welcome the opportunity to consult in redrafting these proposals."

The AMA response covers specific issues within the draft Bill such as vertical integration, referrals, prescribing, 'kickbacks', a proposed mandatory requirement for three referrals, disclosure of financial interests, national medical registration, and medical records.

CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761

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