Doctors warn against upcoming Medicare changes

Doctors are warning about changes to Medicare.

The government is set to trial a new payment system with Medicare that will cap the number of GP visits you have every year, but a number of doctors are saying it could leave many patients worse off than they are now.

The new tiered system for people with chronic diseases will see patients receive $1795 a year in GP visits to get treatments and checkups, however, doctors say it appears to be just another cost-cutting exercise by the government, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

According to the Department of Health, patients will only be granted access to Medicare funding for up to five GP visits that are not related to their chronic illness. Under the current Medicare system patients have uncapped access to GP care.

The drastic new system will start next year on a trial basis, with doctors warning it could leave people worse off and out of pocket.

“It sounds more like a cost-cutting exercise or a defunding exercise, and that’s the last thing we need if we are to have a sustainable healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for patients,” RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel told SMH.

“It’s really difficult to see what patients gain. For our patients, I can’t see a major benefit compared to the current system.”

The government has put aside more than $100 million for stage one of the trial, but AMA vice-president Dr Tony Bartone says that amount is “quite inadequate” and will not be enough for people with chronic conditions.

“We’re concerned that the trial will fail and it’s too important an initiative to fail,” Dr Bartone said.

However, a spokesperson for Health Minister Sussan Ley says the new system is about streamlining Medicare and making is easier for patients and doctors.

“At the heart of stage one is an attempt to address common patient concerns that there is fragmented care being delivered under existing arrangements and we are looking at delivering Medicare in a more flexible and targeted way to co-ordinate clinical resources to meet patient needs,” they said.

What are your thoughts on this new payment system? Do you think it will work? Do you like the system we already have?

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