Medicare services review sensible, but purpose should be to ensure we get the right healthcare, affordable and safe

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) welcomes the consultation process on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) initiated by Health Minister Sussan Ley.

“This builds on the work commenced by the Medical Services Advisory Committee, and will contribute to a much-needed speeding up of that Committee’s work.  It should take into consideration the work being done separately by the clinician-led Choosing Wisely program, led by the Government-funded organisation, NPS MedicineWise,” says Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive. 

“While the Medicare review specifically precludes the addition of new items to the MBS, the separate work of the Primary Health Care Advisory Group should give consideration to payment methods in primary health care across both general practice and allied health which support coordinated care management.

“The processes for review should be undertaken with broad consultation, and with due diligence – the multiple review processes being undertaken across a range of areas in health at the moment create a risk of fragmented responses, poor communications with key stakeholders, and even poorer decision-making. This will neither be helpful to governments looking for budget savings, or for ensuring that Australians have access to a high quality, safe and affordable healthcare system.

“Last night’s Four Corners program highlighted some areas of low-value care which are worthy of further investigation. But this is not the only way to achieve greater efficiency in the health system.”

Key findings of a recent AHHA Think Tank on health funding included that there should be an increased focus on the value or health benefit gained from individual treatments, including at end of life, and that this might be facilitated by providing information to clinicians on the cost of materials, tests and treatments used during a patient’s care, as well as by conversations between health providers and their patients. 

The challenge of increasing chronic disease, multi-comorbidities and how the health system can respond to these pressures must also be considered in the quest for a more efficient health system which better meets patient needs. If care was better integrated between primary, acute and aged care, there would be a significant incentive to avoid costly hospital admissions through more effective primary care and community based management of an individual’s health care needs. Devolving responsibility for the commissioning of healthcare services across a patient’s journey at regional level via Primary Health Networks would represent a significant and bold move to realise the goals of better integrated healthcare. This single funder approach to coordinated care would help control costs and resolve accountability issues, as well as improving patient care.

“This Thursday, Prime Minister Turnbull is meeting with a number of business and community leaders to discuss tax reform. While health leaders have not been invited to this meeting, the AHHA urges the Prime Minister to consider tax reforms which will ensure durable, sustainable funding for community services including health.  Reform is necessary, but repeated, misguided attempts at reform are a waste of both financial and political capital, and are a lost opportunity for the country,” says Ms Verhoeven.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven

Chief Executive, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

0403 282 501