Budget 2016: Medicare Benefits Schedule overhauled
SCOTT Morrison's first budget will see the Federal Government save $51.4 million over the next four years by removing or amending items it pays rebates for on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
In a move that will be unpopular with medical groups, Mr Morrison also announced a plan to continue the pause on indexation for Medicare rebates, estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.
This continues the fee freeze until 2019-20.
Also in the firing line are so-called flexible funds for a range of health organisations.
The Government will maintain the pause on indexation for these funds, saving it $182 million over three years.
There are some winners, in particular some new items added to the MBS.
The Government has allocated $33.8 million for new retinal photography equipment that will help diagnose patients with diabetic retinopathy in regional and rural areas.
A further $3 million is being set aside for new rebates on MRI scans for breast cancer. The amendments to the MBS and Veterans' Benefits include:
- the consolidation of 57 skin service items;
- streamlining existing skin patch testing items and adding new items to test for a greater number of allergens on one occasion; and
- restricting the co-claiming of specific items for the treatment of varicose veins where clinically appropriate.
- The authority that regulates drugs and supplements, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will get a boost of $20.4 million to increase regulation.
Patients will lose out, advocates say
Health experts say many of the budget measures will mean patients are worse-off.
Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells said the Government's move to freeze Medicare rebates over the next three years could potentially increase the pressure on GPs to drop bulk billing and charge additional fees.
"The vote of a future Senate could also mean a range of fresh out-of-pocket costs, including a $5 rise in the co-payment for prescribed medicines and cutting of the $630 million in bulk-billing incentives to pathologists and radiologists," Ms Wells said.
"These measures will discourage the sort of reform we need to support a primary health care system that would improve care for those with chronic and complex illness."