Federal Government aims to better target bulk-billing incentives for rural areas

Amanda Lyons

13/06/2018 2:30:03 PM

The geographic eligibility criteria for rurality will be updated to better reflect current population data.

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The change in the system for classifying rurality is designed to better target services to where they are most needed.

The recent senate estimates hearings revealed further information about the Federal Government’s ‘Stronger rural health strategy’ (the strategy). This includes the strategy’s aim to improve targeting of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items designed to encourage bulk billing for vulnerable populations in rural and remote locations.
The distribution of these MBS items is currently calculated using the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas Classification (RRMA). However, the RRMA is based on outdated population data from 1991, meaning that some areas that have expanded in that period may still be classified as rural even though they no longer fit the criteria required for the MBS items.
The Federal Government plans to correct this problem by moving from the RRMA classification system to the more recently developed Modified Monash Model (MMM) from 1 July 2019.
The MMM currently uses 2011 population data and will be further updated to 2016 figures later this year.
This change is likely to have a significant effect on distribution of MBS items for areas that have experienced significant growth. Western Australia locations such as Ellenbrook or Baldivis that may previously have been classified as eligible for a rural bulk-billing incentive would likely instead bill as urban under the MMM system.
The progressive introduction of the MMM was announced in 2014 by then-Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash.
‘The new system will create more sustainability for towns that fluctuate in their DWS [District of Workforce Shortage] status,’ Ms Nash said.
The Federal Government has said that the realignment caused by the redistribution of rurality under the MMM will enable rural areas to retain higher incentives, bulk billing will be accessible to patients of the most need, and the sustainability of the MBS will be improved.

Federal-Budget Medicare-rebates Modified-Monash-Model rural-and-remote-health


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