13 July 2021
On July 1, when all eyes were on COVID case numbers and 12 million Australians were in lockdown, Scott Morrison snuck through almost 1,000 cuts and changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
This is the biggest change to the MBS, which lists all the Medicare services subsidised by the Australian Government, in its history.
One in six Medicare rebates have been affected, radically altering the cost of hundreds of orthopaedic, cardiac and general surgeries.
Despite the scale and impact of these changes, doctors and healthcare providers only learned the details around three weeks before they came into effect.
That means people who planned surgeries before their doctor was notified about the changes now face out of pocket costs of up to $10,000.
The Australian Medical Association, the Grattan Institute, health funds, the Consumers Health Forum, and the Australian Orthopaedic Association have all warned the cuts and changes will lead to an increase in out of pocket costs for patients.
The Minister for Health has said savings from these cuts will be reinvested in Medicare – but he hasn’t been able to explain how patients will benefit.
This follows a pattern of rising out of pocket costs under the current Liberal Government, which has seen gap fees go up by around $10 for GP visits and a whopping $30 for specialists. It now costs 43% more to see a doctor in Parramatta than it did in 2013.
Over the past eight years, this Government has also pursued Medicare privatisation, proposed a $7 GP tax, cut bulk billing services and cut billions from Medicare.
It’s important to note that the latest cuts and changes came out of a five year review that was supported by the AMA and other medical groups.
The aim of this review was to bring the MBS in line with modern surgical practice. But the outcome has blindsided the medical profession, and the Morrison Government is yet to explain to doctors or patients how the almost 1,000 changes will work.
Doctors are already reporting cases of patients putting off surgery because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford it.
In Australia, in 2021, patients should not be forced to choose between cancelling life-changing surgeries or being hit with huge bills they were never told about.
I’ve added a petition to my website so people in our community can tell the Morrison Government to abandon these cuts and changes. If this matters to you, please add your name here.
If these cuts and changes have affected you or someone you care about, please get in touch with my office.