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Surgical assistants should not have to bill primary surgeons

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The AMA cannot accept a proposal to strip surgical assistants of direct Medicare funding.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce has presented a draft proposal that would force surgical assistants to bill the primary surgeon for their work.

The AMA rejects this proposal, condemning it outright.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has written to the chair of the MBS Principles and Rules Committee, Professor Michael Grigg, asking that the proposal be dropped.

“These recommendations set a dangerous precedent for a bundled payment for all doctors involved,” Dr Bartone wrote.

“Although medical surgical assistants work under the leadership of the primary surgeon as part of a multi-disciplinary surgical team, they are independent practitioners, not unlike anaesthetists, and should remain so.

“For the surgeon to bill on behalf of, and then reimburse, the assistant surgeon will add a level of additional administrative and contractual complexity.

“The system must respect doctors’ right to practise independently and make their own decisions regarding fees on a patient-by-patient basis.

“In the absence of any data being provided, it appears that the problems that the MBS Review Taskforce has identified with surgical assistants are isolated to a very small number of practitioners, and these sweeping proposed changes to the remuneration arrangements are wildly inappropriate and unacceptable, not to mention via the wrong mechanism.”