Allied health misses a guernsey in the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce – by Amanda Griffiths

It’s been about a month since Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the members of the Federal Government’s Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce and the Primary Health Care Advisory Group (PHCAG).

Medicare Benefits Scheme Review TaskforceAlthough the PHCAG is made up of members from a number of health professions including physiotherapy, medicine and pharmacy, it is blatantly obvious that professions outside of medicine are under-represented in the MBS Review Taskforce.

According to Minister for Health Sussan Ley, the MBS Review Taskforce will review the more than 5,500 services listed on the MBS to better align with the contemporary clinical evidence.

Professor Bruce Robinson is designated as a chair and will work with clinicians, researchers, health technology assessment experts and consumers. The members of the MBS Review taskforce are:

  1. Professor Bruce Robinson – Chair, Endocrinologist, The University of Sydney
  2. Dr Steve Hambleton, General Practitioner
  3. Professor Nick Talley, Gastroenterologist, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle
  4. Professor Michael Grigg, Vascular Surgeon, Professor of Surgery at Monash University
  5. Professor Lee Gruner, Medical Administrator, President of RACMA
  6. Dr Bev Rowbotham, Haematologist, Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Queensland
  7. Dr Matthew Andrews, Radiologist
  8. Professor Paul Glasziou, General Practitioner, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Bond University
  9. Professor Michael Besser, Neurosurgeon (retired).
  10. Dr Michael Coglin, Public Health Medicine specialist, Chief Medical Officer at Healthscope.
  11. Consumer representative to be advised
  12. Dr Matthew McConnell, Specialist in Internal Medicine
  13. Associate Professor Adam Elshaug – A/Prof of Health Care Policy – researcher and policy advisor, University of Sydney

Jennifer Doggett, who has previously worked in the Federal Department of Health, as a political advisor and in a community health organisation, called the Medicare review taskforce a “Medicare Club” and implied that women were under-represented in the group. While she does raise a valid point there, in my opinion the main point is the lack of representation outside the field of medicine.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, the Australian College of Midwives and the Australian College of Nursing have expressed their concern about the fact that nurses and midwives are not represented at all on the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce. The nursing colleges state that genuine reform will only occur if there is transparent and robust engagement with nurses, midwives and all health professionals – not just doctors, health bureaucrats and health economists. They requested an explanation from the Minister and immediate rectification of the matter.

It is my opinion that professional bodies representing practitioners including diabetes educators, physiotherapists, optometrists, occupational therapists, psychologists, podiatrists, dietitians, nurses, midwives, exercise physiologists, dentists and speech pathologists will need to come up with watertight evidence and strong campaigns as to why their profession should have their Medicare benefits not only continued, but indexed with inflation.

Amanda Griffiths – founder MHC.

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