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Legislative changes for MBS telehealth items


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


17/07/2020 4:36:06 PM

newsGP outlines the new changes to MBS telehealth items, which are set to take effect from Monday 20 July.

Woman on the phone
The changes follow growing concerns over the emergence of pop-up telehealth services offering low-value care.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt recently flagged new reforms regarding access to the temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) COVID-19 telehealth items to ensure continuity of care during the pandemic.
 
The Federal Government has since amended the legislation, outlining the new requirements as of Monday 20 July.
 
As per the Health Insurance (Section 3C General Medical Services – COVID-19 Telehealth and Telephone GP Attendances) Amendment, access to the telehealth item numbers will only be permitted through a patient’s usual medical practitioner (other than a specialist or consultant physician) who:

  • has provided at least one service to the patient in the past 12 months
  • is located at a medical practice at which at least one service to the patient was provided, or arranged by, in the past 12 months.
Approved medical deputising services (AMDS) will also have access to the MBS telehealth items, under the provision that:
 
  • the AMDS provider has a formal agreement in place with a medical practice to provide services to its patients
  • the medical practice has provided, or arranged, at least one service to the patient in the past 12 months.
The changes, however, do not apply to a telehealth service provided to a person who is:
 
  • under the age of 12 months
  • experiencing homelessness
  • in a COVID-19-affected area, where their movement is restricted within the state or territory due to a public health requirement applying to the patient’s location.
Under the legislation, a person is considered to be experiencing homelessness if their current living arrangement:
 
  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to, space for social relations.
An exemption also applies to a person who receives the service from a medical practitioner located at an Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.
 
This is the seventh round of reform the telehealth item numbers have undergone since they were introduced in March.
 
The changes follow growing concerns over the emergence of pop-up telehealth services offering low-value care, with no prior relationship with the patient, or knowledge of their medical history, resulting in fragmented care.

Answers to frequently asked questions related to the new telehealth changes can be accessed on the RACGP website.
 
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