Incorporating AHPARR (Rural & Remote), National Allied Health Classification Committee and
National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions
EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION FRIDAY, 19 DECEMBER
Allies of good health care speak out
The proposed cuts to Medicare will make it harder for many chronically ill patients to get comprehensive care, which can benefit them and the health budget by reducing costly hospital stays.
National allied health profession leaders have expressed their concern about the potential impact of the Government’s Medicare measures on many Australians’ health, in a statement released by Allied Health Professions Australia today.
“Allied health professionals make a major contribution to helping people with chronic conditions keep well and stay out of hospital” says Professor Lyn Littlefield, Chair of AHPA.
Australians with chronic conditions need to feel able to see an allied health professional as well as a GP. But the Government’s announced freeze on Medicare rebates through to July 2018 will effectively turn many away from accessing these and other much needed allied health services.
Examples are physiotherapists and osteopaths who work with people to maintain or regain their mobility and strength, dietitians who advise on a person’s nutritional needs, diabetes educators who empower patients to self-manage their condition effectively.
Accessing quality allied health services contributes to fewer hospitalisations, generating major savings on health costs. For an investment of $173 for diabetes education per person with diabetes each year, there would be savings of $2800 in health care costs. Yearly podiatry visits for diabetic patients could reduce Australia’s amputation rate by 40 per cent and physiotherapy management could prevent 63 per cent of costly knee replacements.
Claire Hewat, CEO of Dietitians Association of Australia expresses her concern “Consumers will be faced with bigger barriers which defeats the purpose of evidence based multidisciplinary care for chronic and complex conditions.” Gail Mulcair, CEO Speech Pathology Australia also states “An increasing gap negatively impacts on consumers being able to access private services, with these consumers commonly amongst our most vulnerable and/or disadvantaged.” “The freeze impacts unfairly on vulnerable groups who can’t afford a gap of any kind” reiterates Damian Mitsch, CEO Australasian Podiatry Council.
Faced with greater costs consumers with chronic conditions may forgo attending preventive health care services from allied health professionals and then develop serious symptoms requiring hositalisation and maybe surgery, with the consequences of far greater out-of-pocket expenses, time off work, loss of income, and absence from family duties.
Allied Health Medicare rebates are provided for just 20 minutes of a service, but for most health consumers an adequate and effective initial consultation and intervention by an allied health professional takes far longer than 20 minutes. The allied health professionals, like GPs, need to maintain the viability of their small businesses. Business overheads and salaries need to be met. Each year the cost of living increases and so to must the fees set to cover costs. As Cris Massis, CEO of the Australian Physiotherapy Association says “This means that, by 2018, Medicare rebates for many services will have been frozen for almost six years, while inflation continues to rise.”
Medicare rebates for diagnostic imaging have not been indexed since 1998. This means that every woman having a baby and people suffering with cancer are carrying an increased financial burden. Stephen Duns, CEO of Australasian Sonographers Association notes “This burden increases while costs go up and rebates stay down.”
People needing allied health services will be faced with increasing out-of pocket expenses as the Medicare rebate remains frozen in the face of unremitting increases in cost of living and thus business expenses.
Allied Health Professions Australia has been advocating for some time for reforms in the Medicare system which would save the Government money and save health consumers money and time. Examples include allowing some allied health professionals prescribing rights and allowing specialists and allied health professionals to directly refer a consumer for a needed health service, rather than always needing to go via a GP. AHPA urges the Government to maintain Australia’s internationally acknowledged universal health care, by engaging with it to define the potential economic savings of effectively using Allied Health Professionals in the health system.
Media inquiries: Lin Oke, Executive Officer, AHPA 0414 473 482
Affiliates: Australian Diabetes Educators Association, Australian Association of Practice Managers, Diversional Therapy Australia, Hearing Aid Audiometrist Society of Australia
PO Box 38, Flinders Lane VIC 8009 • Ph: +61 3 8662 6620 • Fax: +61 3 9663 6177