Diagnostic imaging accord welcome…but what about GPs?

Health consumers can expect temporary relief from the prospect of out of pocket costs for diagnostic imaging services such as mammograms and ultrasounds as a result of an agreement announced by the Health Minister, Sussan Ley.

“This is a welcome step, along with the promise of an independent evaluation of the commercial pressures facing the diagnostic imaging practices. We need to base sound health policy and future decisions about how diagnostic imaging services are valued and paid for on evidence, evaluation and stakeholder consultation. This evaluation should help that process” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“However the freeze on Medicare payment to GPs, allied health and optometry remains until 2020 and poses a major worry for consumers and doctors.

“We call on the Minister to rethink the Medicare freeze and institute a broader review to examine the full spectrum of cost pressures on Medicare.

“To evaluate some sectors of Medicare cost pressures without looking at the single largest sector --- general practice and primary health care --- risks producing an incomplete result which will not resolve the substantial economic challenges facing medical practice in Australia. These challenges include questions of supply and demand and the future financial viability of general practice.

“The agreement with diagnostic imagers follows the government’s earlier agreement with pathologists to withhold plans to remove the Medicare bulk billing discount --- a move which threatened to result in patients having to pay an out of pocket charge for these important diagnostic services.

“Cost is not the only issue for consumers. The right to safe, quality and appropriate care is another. The accord with the diagnostic imaging sector included the introduction of a quality framework based on the College of Radiologists’ recommendations which is aimed at ensuring high quality and safe services. This should be a positive step for consumers and a significant step forward given the technological advances in imaging and vital role of radiologists and imaging staff,” Ms Wells said.

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Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986