AMA wary as minister announces 23 Medicare cut-backs

THE guillotine is poised over 23 "obsolete" items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule as the Federal Government pushes for savings.

Nine different ear, nose and mouth services face the axe, including tonsillectomies, alongside diagnostic imaging, gastroenterology, obstetrics and thoracic or lung medicine items.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the 23 items were used a combined 52,000 times in 2014-15, costing $6.8 million in Medicare benefits.

She said the current outdated schedule required the immediate removal of lower-volume items in specialty areas where there was "clinical consensus that they are obsolete".

"These are also items that clinical experts deem will not have adverse impacts on a patient's access to health services if removed," she said.

Ms Ley said reasons for the cuts included doubling up of claims and decreasing usage.

"For example, in diagnostic imaging, invasive tests to diagnose blood clots in the lower leg or gall bladder problems have now been replaced by non-invasive ultrasound technology," she said.

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said most of the recommendations were unlikely to be controversial.

However, he was wary of the government's true motivation.

"We support the need for a review, but we are concerned if the government sees this as a primary way to make money," he said.

"We've already seen the MYEFO cut $600 million from diagnostics and bulk billing this month without any consultation."

The recommendations will be opened for public comment, with further cutbacks expected over the coming year.

"The profession broadly supports the MBS review, but clinicians won't support something that restricts patient services or increases out-of-pocket expenses," Dr Owler said.


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