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Co-payment fight just one strand of AMA advocacy

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The Spring sitting of Parliament started again in late September with no compromise in sight on several Budget proposals, including the introduction of a mandatory co-payment for GP, pathology and diagnostic imaging services and a $5 cut to the Medicare rebate.

As has been reported in the past few editions of Australian Medicine, AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler has had many meetings with politicians in which he has emphasised the need to maintain investment in primary health care. The issue has generated a lot of correspondence from members, who reflect the diversity of views in the community.

When a significant policy issue such as this emerges it often sweeps all before it. But there is a lot of other activity underway within the Federal Secretariat which sometimes is lost to members.

In the primary health care area, the Council of General Practice is looking at how to better target chronic disease management items, which will inform work underway within the Department of Health. In another development, the AMA is working with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia to model a role for pharmacists in general practice – an area of interest to both professions.

The Medical Practice team is finalising the AMA Fees List, which will be released shortly. The Fees List remains an essential reference tool and this year will also be accessible via doctorportal, the new platform I have written about previously.

The Secretariat, with considerable input from Federal Council, is finalising its submission to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care on National Priorities for Clinical Practice. We are also finalising the draft submission to the review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions.

In other activities, the AMA is working with the Doctors Health Advisory Services to develop a national governance structure for consistent delivery of health services for doctors across Australia, with support from the Medical Board of Australia.

Public health remains a key policy area for the Federal AMA.

Recently, State and Territory AMA Presidents have been working with the Federal AMA on a unified response to various proposals to trial the medical use of cannabis. While not an issue of high priority, it is one which has attracted a lot of media interest. The AMA position is quite clear. Any therapeutic claim should be tested, like all other therapeutic claims, via the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The National Alcohol Summit is now well-advanced in its planning. The event will be held in Canberra on 28 and 29 October. Another population health issue of interest to the AMA is the growing incidence of obesity. It is an area of activity that we will spend more time on in coming months. To date AMA activity has been centred on food labelling. However, there is also a significant piece of work which could be undertaken in supporting activities to get people moving – making exercise safe and accessible.