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Review reveals Medicare wastage gripes

National

Seeing a doctor just to get the all clear on a routine blood test is one of the gripes uncovered by a review to weed out wastage in the Medicare system.

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The interim report of a review into the Medicare Benefits Schedule ordered by Health Minister Sussan Ley has identified unnecessary surgeries and diagnostic imaging and pathology tests as areas of concern for patients and health professionals.

They’ve also pointed to low-value administrative GP consultations for things such as repeat prescriptions, test results or sick leave certificates.

Ley insists the review, ordered last year, isn’t about saving health money.

“If the government is paying, effectively, too much for small appointments that aren’t necessarily adding to a person’s overall health… that money does need to be reinvested,” she told ABC radio today.

“Part of my job as health minister is to make sure that where we see inefficiency we reinvest it for the benefit of patients.”

Ley is taking the fight to the ALP, which has historically pushed back against any proposed changes to the Medicare system.

“Labor’s insistence on blocking any changes to Medicare is out-of-date puts them at odds with health professionals and patients,” she said.

The review found 50 per cent of health professionals had identified items on the MBS that were low-value.

One quarter of consumers surveyed said they or someone they knew had received or been recommended tests, procedures or consultations they thought were unnecessary.

One respondent asked why it was necessary to see a GP for blood test results where there were no medical concerns. “Why can’t these be given over the phone or email or text?”

Concerns were also raised about unnecessary surgeries, such as circumcision of healthy baby boys.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon denied going to a GP for a repeat prescription or referral was a waste of time.

“We support any initiatives to see a more efficient health system,” he told ABC TV.

“But continuing to bash general practice as an inefficient or expensive area – it’s simply not right.”

-AAP

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