Freeze on Medicare rebates for scans coming to an end

The end of the 20-year freeze on Medicare benefits for radiology and ultrasound should reduce gaps and improve access to diagnostic imaging services for many patients, the Consumers Health Forum, said today.

“The change to take effect from July next year, will cost taxpayers $200 million over three years and will see indexed rebates for about 90 per cent of all diagnostic imaging services.

“We hope that this injection of funds into the sector will benefit consumers,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“As our Out of Pocket Pain survey report found last year, respondents reported struggling to meet the cost of much-needed diagnostic scans let alone the costs of their treatment.

“While much of the out of pocket cost debate has centred on unacceptable, egregious charging by specialists, people typically need multiple scans and tests. We shouldn’t under-estimate the cumulative burden of these costs on individuals and families across the course of a diagnosis and treatment.

“The Health Minister, Greg Hunt, states more than nine million patients use diagnostic imaging scans each year, so financial barriers to these services have a widespread impact.

“We understand that one of the reasons for the prolonged freeze on Medicare benefits for diagnostic scans advanced by governments over the years has been that technical developments have in many cases significantly reduced the cost to the provider of these services.

“The issue of setting payments for these still-expensive services highlights the need for continued scrutiny of cost and clinical evidence drivers of the kind being carried out by the Medicare Benefits Scheme review and for patients to feel it well within their rights to ask about the necessity of and alternatives to various tests as promoted by campaigns such as Choosing Wisely,” Ms Wells said.



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