Improving Access to Medical Treatments

The 2006-07 Budget provides more than $687 million to improve access to medical services or treatments, including updates to the MBS and PBS to address emerging needs.

Page last updated: 09 May 2006

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9 May 2006

The 2006-07 Budget provides more than $690 million in funding over the next four years to improve access to medical services or treatments.

This includes funding to draw health workers into areas and disciplines where shortages have occurred or will occur as Australia’s population shifts and grows.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme are also continually updated as new technologies and clinical practices emerge or new needs are identified.

Better access to radiation oncology - continue funding

More than 50 per cent of people newly diagnosed with malignant cancer need access to radiotherapy. Radiotherapy can have a major effect on survival rates.

This programme will improve access to radiotherapy services for Australians with cancer, especially in non-metropolitan areas, by expanding the number of people trained to provide radiation oncology, improving quality systems and expanding the provision of radiation oncology infrastructure.

The Commonwealth will also seek to establish a radiotherapy facility in Darwin, with private sector and Northern Territory Government contribution. The absence of a service in Northern Australia has meant that people with malignant cancer have had to travel to other states for radiotherapy, away from family and familiar surrounds, or have had to decide on less beneficial treatment.

The programme will cost $90.3 million over four years from 2006-07, including $43 million for constructing or expanding a number of radiotherapy facilities.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule - minor new listings

PBS subsidies will be provided for a range of new drugs, including new options for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, stage III colon cancer, patients with multiple myeloma (a cancer of the blood and immune system) and hepatitis C.

In the first four years, about 27,000 people will benefit from these new PBS drugs at a cost of $85.6 million over five years (including $5.9 million in 2005-06).

Medicare Benefits Schedule - new and revised listings

The Government has introduced Medicare rebates for 72 new minor items and made minor modifications to 56 existing items.

These include items to provide Medicare funding for:
    • annual health assessments of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
    • a comprehensive health assessment for immigrants who arrived in Australia under the Humanitarian Programme, after they receive residency in Australia.
    • case conferencing by doctors providing geriatric and rehabilitation medicine to older patients.
    • comprehensive eye examinations for certain children.
The Government is committing $176.5 million over five years for these new items.

More doctors for outer metropolitan areas - continue funding

The Government’s programme to attract more doctors into urban areas with shortages of doctors will continue for a further four years with funding of $64.5 million from 2006-07.

As a result of the programme, 240 doctors had relocated or increased their work hours by the end of 2005 and 357 GP Registrars had undertaken six month placements in outer metropolitan suburbs. Despite this, there is a continuing need to improve access to medical services in outlying urban areas.

The continuing programme will provide financial incentives to GPs or specialists to relocate or remain in outer suburbs. It will also provide training placements in outer metropolitan areas for GP Registrars and specialist trainees.

Medicare item for general practitioner participation in Home Medicines Reviews - continue funding

The Home Medicines Review programme supports collaboration between GPs and pharmacists to identify, resolve and prevent medication related problems and errors for people living in the community. People taking multiple medications and the elderly are particularly at risk of suffering an adverse event if they take medication at the wrong time, in the wrong dose or in the wrong combination.

The pharmacists’ component of this programme has been approved for ongoing funding after the signing of the Fourth Community Pharmacy Agreement. The GPs component through Medicare will also be continued with funding of $41.6 million over four years.

Visudyne Therapy (Verteporfin) - continue funding

The Government will continue funding for photodynamic therapy with Verteporfin (“Visudyne Therapy”) to treat macular degeneration. Around 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with macular degeneration each year, about 17 per cent of whom could benefit from this therapy.

This is a cross portfolio measure with the Department of Veterans Affairs and will cost a total of $139.8 million over four years from 2006-07.

Continuation of bulk-billing incentives for GPs in areas of workforce shortage and lower than average bulk-billing rates

Financial incentives paid to GPs through Medicare to bulk bill Commonwealth concession card holders and children under 16 have helped increase the bulk billing rate. The national bulk billing rate has increased by 8.6 percentage points since incentives began in early 2004.

The higher ($7.85) incentive paid to GPs in eligible metropolitan areas - with low bulk billing rates and a medical workforce shortage - will be continued for another two years to 30 June 2008, at a cost of $41.6 million, and will then be reviewed.

Media contact:Kate Miranda 0417 425 227

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