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‘Obsolete’ Medicare system to be replaced

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The Federal Government has commenced work on replacing the ageing Medicare, health and aged care payments system in a move welcomed by the AMA.

Health Minister Sussan Ley and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge have announced that the process of identifying a new system to supplant the current 30-year-old structure has commenced.

“Australia’s existing health and aged care payments system is 30 years old and is now obsolete,” the Ministers said. “A process has commenced to identify solutions for this new payments system, which will be based on existing commercial technology.”

But, seeking to prevent a repeat of Labor’s damaging election campaign claim that such a move amounted to the privatisation of Medicare, the Ministers insisted the Government would retain ownership and control.

“The new system will support the Australian Government continuing to own, operate and deliver Medicare, PBS, aged care and related veterans’ payments into the future,” they said.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said the Government’s move amounted to a modernisation rather than privatisation.

“The AMA made it very clear during the election campaign that replacing the backroom payment system for Medicare does not equate to the privatisation of Medicare,” Dr Gannon said. “The current payment system is 30 years old. It is clunky and inefficient. Its many faults create inefficiency and inconvenience for doctors and patients.”

The AMA President said medical practices had taken on much of the work of processing Medicare payments on behalf of the Government, costing them considerable time and effort.

The Government has promised to consult “extensively” with health providers and stakeholders in determining the final design of the new system.

Dr Gannon said such consultation was vital.

“It is critical the AMA is closely involved in the design of the new system to ensure it meets the needs of doctors and patients,” he said, adding that medical practices must be properly supported to incorporate and implement the new system for the benefit of patients.

Consultations on the new system are due to be finalised in January 2017.

Adrian Rollins

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