Enrolling for better health care
Older Australians will be able to enter an agreement with their GP to enable more personalised and coordinated care under a significant change announced in the Budget.
Under the new $448 million primary care scheme for patients over 70, general practices will receive additional payment for doctors and other clinicians to provide consultations, referrals, test results and scripts without having a face-to-face consultation with patients.
“This is a welcome development in bringing Medicare into the 21st Century by providing services and advice by doctors to patients without a face-to-face consultation as currently required under Medicare rules,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.
“For many older people with chronic illness, getting to the doctor for routine checks and the like is a major challenge. More than half of Australians over 70 years have two or more chronic conditions.
“Older patients will also benefit from better follow-up and self-management support under these measures.
“These new arrangements will be voluntary for both patients and doctors and should encourage a more flexible and responsive approach to primary care, with the potential to reduce avoidable hospitalisation of patients. They will also help support older Australians to age in place.
“We would also liked to have seen the new scheme cover children five and under as part of this new approach to funding general practice care. Busy families also need access to flexible and affordable contemporary primary health care.
“We welcome the trial of a fresh approach to adult mental health with the development of eight walk-in centres to provide coordinated care and advice for people with concerns, to address what has been a gap in the health system.
“We are also pleased to see the Government will move ahead with plans to develop a new website to help consumers learn more about the out of pocket costs they might face for specialist medical care.
“The $7.2 million plan will include the publication of de-identified data showing the range of fees and out of pocket costs charged by specialists so that patients can identify typical specialist costs including when a course of treatment may involve more than once service, such as for breast cancer.
“A nationally searchable website for individual specialists’ fees will initially focus on cancer, gynaecology and obstetrics, areas where major concerns have been raised about costs.
“This Budget comprises a myriad of new funding measures for scores of different health initiatives in, pharmacy, medicines, hospitals, aged care and medical research.
“These initiatives are welcome but make more conspicuous the absence of a national strategic plan to combat one of Australia’s biggest health problems, obesity.
“Once again, a Federal Government has failed to devote any serious funding to a national population-wide public health scheme to encourage healthy diet and discourage promotion of unhealthy food to children.
“Yet as was demonstrated with a comprehensive anti-tobacco campaign, the benefits of a concerted public health campaign can be substantial,” Ms Wells said.