We understand that Medicare can be a tough system to comprehend, especially when it comes to changes. This article is to provide some information on the proposed changes to the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) in the 2014-2015 Federal Budget, in a hopefully more understandable format.
The proposed changes are not set to be introduced until 1st July, 2015, and have not yet been passed through Parliament (so may not occur at all).
The Federal Government has put forward budget measures to reduce the Medicare benefit from the 1st July, 2015 by $5 for all patients for:
- Non-referred general practitioner (GP) consultations
- out-of-hospital pathology episodes
- out-of-hospital diagnostic imaging services
To make up for this shortfall, the Federal Government wants to introduce a $7 patient contribution.
Concessional patients (including children under 16 years) will have to pay a maximum of 10 patient contributions across these services per calendar year. After 10 patient contributions are made, the Medicare benefit will increase back to the full amount for concessional patients.
This means bulk billed patients will need to pay $7 for each GP consultation, pathology service and diagnostic imaging service unless they are a concessional patient or child under 16 which have to pay 10 times per calendar year.
These proposed measures will affect many patients, therefore the doctors and staff at Fountain Street General Practice do not support the changes. For our privately-billed patients, these changes will result in a reduced amount of Medicare rebate they receive. In addition, there are many reasons for patients requiring access to free medical care, such as unemployment, crisis situations, and chronic, severe illness, and we believe these changes will prevent some of our patients receiving the care and services they need due to the increased cost to those less able to pay. This is very likely to have the effect of increasing the health gap between the rich and poor. For more information on the effects the co-payment will have, see this excellent article.