New financial year: What GPs need to know

Morgan Liotta

28/06/2019 11:39:07 AM

With a number of key legislative changes to be implemented from 1 July, newsGP breaks down the ones that will affect general practice.

1 July calendar
The new financial year brings a number of key legislative changes for general practice.

As the calendar rolls over to 1 July, GPs need to be aware of changes occurring in programs and services that will affect them, their practices and their patients.
The main changes to impact GPs will be to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), including the re-introduction of indexation for all remaining general practice items, and the introduction of the new Shared Debt Recovery Scheme.
Indexation for MBS general practice items
The 2017–18 Federal Budget included the announcement of a phased re-introduction of indexation of MBS rebates. To date, these include GP bulk-billing incentives (commenced July 2017) and GP standard attendances (commenced July 2018).
From 1 July 2019, all other general practice services, as well as specialist and allied health services, will be indexed. Rebates for remaining general practice services provided through the MBS will increase by 1.6% – the next phase of the gradual lifting of the Medicare freeze.
While general practice procedures were already scheduled for re-indexation in July 2019, some services were previously scheduled to remain frozen for another year. The budget announcement means some general practice items will be re-indexed a year earlier than previously announced.
RACGP position
While the RACGP welcomes the re-introduction of indexation for MBS rebates, it remains concerned the measure does not address long-standing inadequacies with general practice funding and successive governments not setting rebates that reflect the true value of quality service provision.
From 2019–20, the Federal Government will provide $187.2 million over four years to re-introduce indexation to all remaining general practice services on the MBS. However, the RACGP has calculated a loss of almost $1 billion from the general practice sector as a result of the freeze.
The RACGP believes ongoing inappropriate indexation is contributing to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients, who are bearing a greater share of healthcare costs due to the lack of adequate funding for general practice services.
The college’s 2019–20 pre-budget submission included calls for a better measure of indexation to ensure automatic price increases for patient rebates that fully reflects the rising costs of providing medical care.
Shared Debt Recovery Scheme
The Shared Debt Recovery Scheme (the Scheme), to commence from 1 July 2019, will enable the Government to hold both a practitioner (primary debtor) and another party (secondary debtor) responsible for repayment of compliance debts associated with incorrect Medicare billing.
Under the Scheme, practitioners will retain primary responsibility for correct claiming. However, it will now allow the Government to recover debt from practices where there is evidence they have influenced the Medicare billing practices of practitioners.
RACGP position
The RACGP provided a submission in response to the Department of Health’s consultation on the Scheme in February this year. The college supports the intent of the Scheme as a mechanism to enable debt to be recovered from practices where there is ‘clear evidence that they have influenced, or are responsible for, incorrect Medicare billing’.
The RACGP submission identified a range of potential issues with the Scheme, recommending that the introduction of the Scheme be delayed to address these areas.
Removal of MBS telehealth items for patients in flood-affected areas
New MBS items were introduced in March to allow GPs to provide telehealth services to flood-affected communities in rural Queensland.
As planned, the following items will no longer be available from 1 July 2019:

  • Item 2095  – obvious problem characterised by straightforward nature of task
  • Item 2144  – consultation lasting fewer than 20 minutes
  • Item 2180 – consultation lasting 20–40 minutes
  • Item 2193 – consultation lasting more than 40 minutes
The RACGP has published key documents addressing recommendations for the Government:

financial year MBS items medicare benefits schedule shared debt recovery

newsGP weekly poll Should after-hours Medicare rebates extend to all-day Saturday?

newsGP weekly poll Should after-hours Medicare rebates extend to all-day Saturday?



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