The Turnbull Government is currently undertaking broad-ranging reforms to build a healthier Medicare.
This includes a review of all 5700 items on the Medicare Benefit Schedule, as well as policy work on whether the current fee-for-service model is the best way to fund primary care, particularly for patients who require complex care arrangements from multiple health professionals on a regular basis.
We have already shown our resolve to undertake bold reform in the areas of Medicare and primary care through our mental health package, where we are moving from a Medicare fee-for-service model for patients with severe and complex mental illness to integrated team care arrangements.
We are also undertaking a review of our Medicare compliance arrangements to ensure the rules around claiming reflect modern billing practices.
When undertaking such a broad-ranging set of reforms, it is important that all aspects integrate with one another to ensure we deliver a balanced package that gets both the policy and the politics right.
As such, I am announcing today the Government will be pausing discussions on the Medicare Safety Net measure while we develop our broader Medicare and primary care reform package.
This is a good measure that aims to address significant inequities in a system failing to help the very people it’s designed to protect – our most vulnerable patients with complex and costly medical needs.
We have also had constructive discussions with both the Greens and cross-bench in recent months about the need to address the current safety net failings.
However, at the end of the day, I was unwilling to compromise over the fundamental integrity of the policy’s intention and design in favour of a quick political solution.
Cutting and dicing good policies might result in short term political fixes but is not the way Governments should manage a $65billion healthcare system.
Labor’s own failed safety net reforms taught us that tinkering around the edges by placing inconsistent caps on the claiming of some Medicare items, such as IVF, but not others, will not solve the problem.
It’s also important to recognise this measure was also announced in the 2014-15 Budget context and we have since announced a new policy direction through our healthier Medicare reform package that we need to account for when considering improvements to the safety net.
Therefore, the current measure will remain on the table while we continue to work with our Parliamentary colleagues from all sides over the coming months on an agreeable solution as part of our broader discussions on Medicare and primary care reform.