Do you suffer from diabetes? The Government’s proposed cuts to pathology may have major consequences.
Health Minister Sussan Ley told families just after Christmas last year that a number of items were being removed from the Medicare Benefits Scheme, and now some more devastating news has come to light.
There are now proposed cuts and limitations on bulk billing incentive payments for pathology and diagnostic imaging services, which will save the government $650 million over four years
Dr Nick Musgrave, president of Pathology Australia, told SMH that without the payment, most pathology services would no longer be bulk-billed. This means about 1.7 million Australians with diabetes could have to pay more than $400 upfront for a year of standard blood and urine tests to monitor their kidneys and risk of heart disease.
These costs could deter some patients from doing the tests “making management of their diabetes more difficult for their doctors, and will result in an increase in complications of diabetes including kidney disease and blindness,” Dr Musgrave said.
And even those there’s a Medicare rebate, Dr Musgrave said patients with diabetes will still be left about $270 out of pocket a year, as the Medicare rebate for pathology services had been frozen for the past 20 years: “It doesn’t matter how the government would like to construct the funding of the tests, [the bulk-billing incentive is] part of the overall funding for them”.
Cheryl Steele, who is a diabetes educator and nurse told Fairfax that pensioners with diabetes were most likely to forego pathology tests, putting them at heightened risk of kidney and cardiovascular diseases, because they are often already paying for multiple medications.
“We have patients who will take medication for blood pressure this month and cholesterol next month because they can’t afford it all. Anything that puts extra burden on them to maintain good health will ultimately end up costing more hospital beds”.