Savings from Medicare review to help budget repair: Health Minister Sussan Ley

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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop touches the baby of Minister for Small Business Kelly O'Dwyer as they pose for an official photograph with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the other female members of his cabinet Defence Minister Marise Payne (L), Minister for Health Sussan Ley (3rd L), and Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash (R) and other officials after a swearing in ceremony at Government House in Canberra, Australia, September 21, 2015. Australia got its fifth prime minister in as many years on Monday after the ruling Liberal Party voted to replace Abbott with former investment banker Malcolm Turnbull, following months of infighting and crumbling voter support. Reuters/David Gray

The Medicare review launched by the Turnbull government on Sunday not only aims at assessing a list of 5,700 services on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, but will also help with the budget repair, said Health Minister Sussan Ley. Her confirmation of the intention of the government is in line with the warning by Treasurer Scott Morrison that Australia suffers from a spending problem. 

Ley said that even though there are plans of deriving savings from the review, the exact figure has not yet been decided, and stressed that it was not the main purpose of the review. “Yes it is about harvesting efficiencies, and we know that there are large inefficiencies in the system already,” the health minister said.

Ley’s statement about directing any savings from the Medicare review back to the health system is likely to face opposition from the Labor and the Greens.

The Australian Medical Association has also condemned the Medicare review program, saying that it challenges the integrity of the profession and would hamper the patient’s trust in doctors. The medical association said that it is a cost-cutting method on the part of the government and puts patients at risks.

However Ley has said that she had no intention to attack the integrity of doctors or the profession, but that the review is only an effort to consult the public on the best way to update and modernise the schedule.

“It’s definitely not about winners and losers,” Ley told reporters on Sunday. “It’s about patient safety. It’s about building the best possible health system for the 21st century.”

“I am not suggesting the MBS is being misused,” she told the ABC Radio. “I am not suggesting that doctors are doing the wrong thing.”

The Medicare review program would review all 5,700 items on the MBS, most of which haven’t been reviewed for decades. It would analyse the effectiveness and relevancy of the services listed in the MBS and eliminate the ones considered unnecessary or harmful to patients.

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