Australian Government's new mechanism for implementing the new Medicare allied health initiative

The Australian Government has announced that a mechanism for implementing the new Medicare allied health initiative from 1 July 2004 has been finalised following consultations with GP and allied health professional groups.

The new initiative will allow chronically ill people who are being managed by their GP under an Enhanced Primary Care plan (EPC) access to Medicare rebates for allied health services. The new allied health measure will allow people on an Enhanced Primary Care plan to get Medicare rebates for up to five allied health consultations a year – up to a maximum rebate of $220 a year.

Allied health professionals covered are Aboriginal health workers, audiologists, chiropodists, chiropractors, dieticians, mental health workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, osteopaths, podiatrists, psychologists and speech pathologists.

Where EPC patients have dental problems that are significantly adding to the seriousness of a chronic condition, they can access three consultations with a dentist with a maximum rebate of $220 a year. Consultations with the Australian Dental Association on the dental care plan are being finalised this week.

From 1 July, GPs will be able to provide patients on Enhanced Primary Care Plans with referrals to registered allied health professionals. To be eligible, patients must be on an Enhanced Primary Care Plan. Allied health workers must be registered with the HIC and provide clinical feedback to referring GPs on the treatment to patients.

This ground-breaking improvement to Medicare is just one of the changes in the government’s
$4 billion Medicare package.

“This model confirms the holistic role of GPs to manage the health needs of their patients. It will mean GPs have more flexibility and increased options to ensure their patients can access a range of treatment options. This model aims to limit red tape for GPs and ensure that chronically ill patients get the allied health services they need,” Mr Abbott said.

The new measure will help produce a more holistic health system centred on GPs. It will often make more sense to refer chronically ill patients to physiotherapists rather than orthopaedic surgeons, psychologists rather than psychiatrists and dieticians rather than cardiologists. A referral system should mean less red tape for doctors and patients.

Details of the new arrangements will shortly be provided to GPs and allied health professionals and will also be available at www.health.gov.au.

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