AMA opposes changes to surgical assistants arrangements

2 Oct 2018

On 4 September 2018, the MBS Review Taskforce – MBS Principles and Rules Committee (PRC) wrote to the AMA advising of proposed changes to remuneration arrangements for surgical assistants, with the following specific recommendations:

  1. That current arrangements under which surgical assistants bill patients separately from the primary surgeon and have access to MBS items for their specific services, be discontinued.
  2. That new arrangements be introduced under which the primary surgeon pays the assistant directly for their services.

 In response to a call for feedback, AMA members overwhelmingly opposed the proposed changes. Accordingly, the AMA President wrote to the Chair of the MBS Review Taskforce PRC and provided strong arguments and evidence of the potential for unintended and possibly perverse consequences, of the proposed changes to remuneration arrangements for surgical assistants.

The following key issues were identified by AMA members and consequently formed the basis of the AMA submission:

  • that surgical assistants are independent practitioners and they should remain so;
  • negative impact on surgical training;
  • risk of de-skilling GPs in rural and remote areas;
  • proposed derived fee – baseless assumptions;
  • Private Health Insurance and Out of Pockets Reforms already underway;
  • there are alternative mechanisms to address Taskforce’s concerns; and
  • no data provided on the problem.