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Government loosens telehealth billing restrictions


Matt Woodley


7/04/2020 7:08:11 PM

GPs are now able to apply their usual billing practices to telehealth items for a wide range of patients.

GP using phone
The change is welcome news for GPs who had raised concerns over the viability of smaller non-corporate practices that work within a private model.

Under the new system, GPs are still required to bulk bill for:

  • Commonwealth concession card holders
  • children under 16 years old
  • patients who are more vulnerable to coronavirus.
GPs may apply their usual billing practices to telehealth items for all other patients who do not fit the above criteria.
 
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had previously indicated that private billing for telehealth and telephone item numbers would be permitted for non-concessional patients.
 
However, the change is still welcome news for GPs who had raised concerns over the viability of smaller non-corporate practices that work within a private model and previously weren’t able to privately bill telehealth consultations.
 
Patients deemed ‘vulnerable’ to coronavirus include those undergoing mandatory self-isolation or quarantine, people that meet the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected coronavirus infection, anyone with a chronic health condition or immune deficiency, and expectant mothers.
 
GPs accessing the rebates for anyone aged 70 and over, parents of children under 12 months, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients aged 50 and over are also required to bulk bill.
 
Providers are also expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to providing the service by giving details regarding fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.
 
The continuing availability of telehealth item numbers will be reviewed prior to 30 September 2020.

The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.

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