29 May 2019

AMA warns against MBS allied health expansion

AMA The Hill

The Medical Benefits Schedule should be “quarantined” from the addition of more non-medical services, the Australian Medical Association says, and GPs must remain the central hub in any patient’s care.

In its draft report released last year, the MBS Review Taskforce’s Allied Health Reference Group made 18 recommendations aimed at improving access to allied health services and bolstering their role in primary care.

These include extra MBS items for longer initial assessments, orthotic and prosthetic services, and telehealth; expanding the eligibility for some existing items; a practice incentive payment for allied health (AH) professionals conducting group therapy for chronic disease management; raising the cap on AH appointments under general practice management plans and team care arrangements; and creating a GP primary prevention plan to provide early access to AH services for patients with chronic disease risk factors.

It also recommends allowing referrals among allied health professionals under the MBS.

The AMA, in its response released last week, broadly supports many of the recommendations but says it is “concerned about expanding access to the MBS to non-regulated health professionals” such as providers of orthotics and prostheses.

It says group therapy would be better organised by GPs, and objects to interdisciplinary referrals between AH providers.

“All the research shows the importance of coordinated and connected primary healthcare and of a GP-led primary healthcare team,” AMA president Tony Bartone told The Medical Republic.

“When you’ve got access to all the services in a coordinated and collaborative way under the leadership of a GP, you end up with the best outcomes. That’s what Health Care Homes was supposed to be all about. It didn’t eventuate for a number of reasons, but the [idea] was not flawed.

“A dietitian should not be referring to another allied health provider without consulting with the team leader who will make the call. That ensures things aren’t fragmented and leading to costly inferior outcomes.”