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Medicare claims shopped around

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Fears that patients will face increased delays in receiving reimbursements from Medicare under plans to close shopfronts and consolidate processing centres have been dismissed by the Federal Government.

Department of Human Services staff told the Sunday Herald Sun that the Government planned to shut Medicare shopfront services, with all claims to be processed in one of 17 centres operating nationwide.

They warned this was likely to cause a blow-out in the time taken to reimburse patients.

But Human Services Minister Alan Tudge told Fairfax Media rejected the claim and said most patients would not detect any change, adding that the vast majority of claims were undertaken online.

“There has been a huge reduction in demand for face-to-face claiming so we are consolidating back-of-house processing work to ensure we provide high quality, consistent services,” the Minister said. “Some 96 per cent of all Medicare claims are lodged electronically.”

Mr Tudge said that even with the consolidation of shopfront services undertaken in recent years, most people would be able to find one within a few kilometres of where they lived.

But Labor seized on the Sunday Herald Sun report, claiming the changes would make it harder for patients to make a claim, and force them to wait longer for their rebate.

Shadow Health Minister Catherine King said the changes would not only make it harder for patients, particularly the elderly, but paved the way for the potential privatisation of Medicare – an suggestion vehemently rejected by Mr Tudge.

“Every single aspect of Medicare which is currently operated by Government will continue to be operated by Government, including the processing of the Medicare rebate,” he said.

Adrian Rollins