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Damning report shows gaping holes in government's medicare argument

Photo: Damning report shows gaping holes in government's medicare argument
A damning independent report by Deloitte Access Economics has exposed gaping inequality in the treatment of radiology in Australia, finding a massive $711 million shortfall in funding for patient rebates.

The report, obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws, includes a number of findings including that:
  • Indexation of Medicare rebates for radiology services – frozen solid since 1998 – should be “reinstated in recognition of ongoing cost increases”;
  • The system of making patients pay the whole cost of radiology services upfront – including the gap – is a “cost burden” that “may discourage them from undergoing diagnostic imaging procedures which could compromise their diagnosis and treatment pathway”; and
  • The cost for practices to deliver radiology now exceeds Medicare revenue by more than $25 per unit for bulk-billed services and $39 for privately billed services. 
The sector-wide shortfall that can be calculated from the report is $711 million per year.
“This report reaffirms everything radiologists have been saying about the inequality in the Medicare system and exposes the Government’s lack of action in fixing the problems,” said ADIA President Dr Christian Wriedt.

“The Deloitte report is telling the Federal Government to do exactly what it promised to do before the last election – index patient rebates for radiology and do it now, because we’re creating a two-tiered health system for the haves and have-nots.

“Instead, we’ve got a Government that broke its promise and is leaving Medicare rebates for more than 800 radiology services frozen at 1998 levels.

“The ongoing freeze means that out-of-pocket gaps that patients have to pay have doubled over the past 10 years to where they now average $100 and they’re expected to double again in the next 10 years.

“Practices and patients have had enough. Why are we waiting?”

ADIA contributed to the Deloitte report, which has not yet been released by the Health Minister.

“Radiology is now the hardest to access of all primary care services radiology with the highest upfront cost, the highest patient gaps and the lowest bulk billing rate,” Dr Wriedt said.

“The Turnbull Government is allowing it to worsen by breaking its commitment to end the 19-year freeze on patient rebates for radiology.

“This report cannot be any clearer - radiology saves lives through early diagnosis and better treatment. All Australians need access to it, not just those who can afford it.”

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