Doctors have said this week that many Australians will face a new "co-payment by stealth" for pathology and diagnostic imaging tests because the government is cutting its health budget by more than $650 million.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has scrapped incentive payments to encourage bulk billing of pathology services such as blood tests and diagnostics such as X-rays and MRI’s.
While the government is hoping the cuts will be mostly absorbed by the competitive sector, pathologists are already warning of increased fees for patients that may cause some to forgo tests, and the closure of services in rural areas.
MSA CEO Deidre Mackechnie said: “We are very concerned about potential cuts to Medicare payments for pathology and in particular tests such as MRIs which people require in order to get a timely and accurate diagnosis of MS. The government expects these costs to be absorbed by pathology practices, but if they fail to do so, the impact of these costs will no doubt be passed on to patients.
“As members of the MS community are telling us, regular MRIs are a mainstay of disease management for MS and pathology tests are more important than ever to augment new MS treatments. We want to ensure people are diagnosed as quickly as possible so that they can access treatment; any cuts to aged care and health care that introduce out-of-pocket costs will cause barriers to early diagnosis, early interventions and establishing treatment plans.”
“These announcements are a real worry for people with MS who already face increasing out-of-pockets costs for health services, aids and equipment and medicines. For the vast majority of people with MS, treatments have improved dramatically in recent years, so timely and affordable access to these treatments is essential.”