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Almost $150m ripped out of general practice

The Federal Government has slashed almost $145 million from general practice funding in a crackdown on what it claims was duplication in child health assessments.

In an unheralded change, the Budget revealed $144.6 million would be saved over four years by axing Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates for child health assessments which it said were already being provided by the states and territories.

The Government has also overhauled incentives for GPs to provide after-hours care, redirecting funding from the After Hours GP Helpline and the Medicare Locals After Hours Program into a new Practice Incentive Program After Hours Payment, to come into effect from 1 July.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler voiced concern about the cut to child health assessment funding, saying it was premature when the Primary Health Care Review announced by the Government was yet to get underway.

“Unfortunately, we have seen near $150 million taken out of general practice from changes to the child health checks, apparently because of duplication – although it is very unclear in my mind as to whether or not there is any duplication,” A/Professor Owler said. “The Primary Health Care Review would have obviously have been the perfect place to assess whether the child health assessments were a necessary part, and whether any changes should be made to those assessments. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to revisit that.”

Adrian Rollins