After-hours ‘double dip’ welcomed by GPs
GPs are quietly applauding a loophole in the Gillard Government’s new-look health reforms that may entitle them to collect two separate payments for providing after-hours care.
In the revamped agreement between the Commonwealth and the states, the Government said it would fast-track plans for reform of after-hours primary care, with $126 million going to Medicare Locals to coordinate and fund local services.
It comes just two months after the Government delayed the phasing out of Practice Incentive Program (PIP) payment for GPs providing after-hours consultations.
Detail is scant on exactly how and when the funding for the fast-tracked after-hours reforms will reach GPs.
But with the PIPs continuing until 2013 and the additional after-hours reforms now fast-tracked, some GPs may be able to access both payments for up to two years.
“There is [a doubling up] for a short while,” AMA vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton told MO.
“It’s actually a good thing. There will be some overlap, but we’d rather have overlap than underlap.”
Dr Hambleton added that doubling up would not be universal, since not all Medicare Locals will be operational immediately.
“It will be minimal; even if 30 get off the ground initially, it will take a while to complete the network,” he said.
But practice management consultant David Dahm noted the payments would not automatically go to individual GPs and should be seen as a “capacity grant” for the entire practice.
“It’s to pay for the infrastructure, it’s to pay for the nurses, it’s to pay for the insurance. There is a cost involved in providing this service,” Mr Dahm said.
“I don’t think it’s a double dip, I think it’s politically a really smart move.”
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