Government extends Medicare subsidies for telehealth until March 2021

Paul Hayes

18/09/2020 7:33:47 AM

The RACGP has welcomed the decision, while urging GP involvement in a more long-term plan.

GP on the phone
The RACGP has welcomed the extension and wants to ensure Medicare-subsidised telehealth services are available for years to come.

The Federal Government has announced the Medicare subsidies will be extended to 31 March 2021, after they were due to expire on 30 September.
The move comes after the Federal Government earlier this year heeded the RACGP’s calls to expand Medicare-subsidised telehealth to all Australians, in what Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd described at the time as ‘one of the most significant changes we’ve seen in Australian general practice in my working lifetime of 35 years’.
The changes, for which the RACGP strongly advocated, include:

  • no requirement to bulk bill any patients
  • continuation of both telephone and video consultations.
The RACGP also understands the double bulk-billing incentive will be removed as part of the extension.

The college has welcomed the news, though it has called for significant GP involvement in a long-term plan.
‘We are thankful that the Government has listened to the RACGP and extended these Medicare telehealth subsidies,’ Acting RACGP President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said.
‘The extension to March next year is welcome, but the strong demand for telehealth means that these services will be needed beyond then. These services are flexible, convenient and, in many cases, the most efficient way of providing patient care.
‘We can’t return to the situation where patients are forced to physically sit in front of their GP before they can get a Medicare subsidy.
‘We need to ensure that Medicare-subsidised telehealth services are available for patients for years to come.
‘The RACGP expects that GPs will be consulted and significantly involved in the development of what comes next. Nearly all GPs have altered how they operate and embraced telehealth services to care for patients, so it’s vital that we are a key part of the process.’
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt called extended telehealth a ‘revolution in health delivery’.
‘It was borne from necessity but it's delivered better health care for over 30 million consultations so far,’ he said.
The extension of telehealth subsidies is part of a $2 billion Government package designed to shore up COVID-19 health measures during the pandemic.
‘There will be support for home medicine delivery, continued free COVID-19 pathology tests, as well as further personal protective equipment, respiratory clinics and the state and private hospital partnership agreement,’ Minister Hunt he said.
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Dr Irandani Anandi Ranasinghe-Markus   19/09/2020 6:54:33 AM

A welcome decision. Telehealth is the way of the future - enabling everyone to access the best healthcare when needed. The subsidiary long term benefits of reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions can not be ignored. Most of us in practice have always enabled Telephone consultations for our patients but had to do it in our own time and never got remunerated for the time or the effort. A patient who needs to be seen to be physically examined will always have this choice and opportunity. We must push for Telehealth to stay and for the service we offer to the nation to be better valued.

Dr Alex Marcel Bereny   19/09/2020 12:10:13 PM

A lot of my "at risk" patients offered to pay for a telehealth consult when this was first introduced,and had to be told that the service is bulk-billed.After 6 months everyone is used to not having to pay a fee,and human nature beeing the way it is,it will be difficult to reverse.Compulsary bulk-billing should not have been introduced in the first place.

Dr Gobind Singh Duggal   19/09/2020 3:12:35 PM

it is a good news that Telehealth is extended to 31/3/2021.
currently health workers are at obvious risk getting infected with Covid, despite all the precautions while consulting face to face .

Dr Ramzan Bin Abd-Azis   19/09/2020 7:27:58 PM

I can understand double bulkbilling incentives has to end at some stage but not immediately after 30/9/20. It needs to continue until at least untill the end of March 2021 for practices transitioning into more face to face consultations.

Dr David Zhi Qiang Yu   20/09/2020 5:34:17 PM

It is a good news that Telehealth is extended to 31/3/2021. Please lobby the government that the Telehealth should make it permanent.

Dr Cyril Gabriel Fernandez   27/09/2020 12:09:35 PM

Telehealth extension and sensible use of this is advantageous to the patient community, Health Care workers , Doctors, Nurses , Reception and Admin staff and overall for the State and Country Health and other expenses Budgeting.
Telehealth triage and consultation helps prevent community spread of infections, saves time, cost , trouble for the patient and their friends or family especially children , having to bring or accompany them to the Medical Centre. Not compromising missing vital information and signs in cases requiring a face to face consultation , sensible use of Telehealth could be part of future consultation modality similar to other jobs where people can work from Home.
The ongoing advancements in IT media Technology is useful for the proper application of Telehealth Medicine. Smart phones can share photos, videos and videoconferencing has been widely used in webinars, Telehealth Consultations by GPs, Specialists and Allied Health Providers.
Telehealth will continue.....

Dr Maher Luka   27/09/2020 3:50:00 PM

Loss of COVID -19 Bulk billing incentives is very undermining bulk billing practices . It forms a loss of 30% of curre consultation fees for all patients covered with incentive.
Bulk billing practices will be hit hard with loss of the incentive .
While allowing private billing is an advantage to only few private billing practices .
This further puts bulk billing practices under additional extreme financial pressures .

Dr Maher Luka   27/09/2020 3:53:44 PM

Loss of Covid-19 incentives will hit hard bulk billing practices . It is only advantage for private billing practices .
BB Practices will be put under additional financial pressure with the unavoidable loss of resources.
In the time practices suffering financial losses we are facing more losses by losing the incentives.