Labor promise: Medicare rebates for online consults
LABOR has promised to establish Medicare rebates for online consultations if returned to government this weekend, with an announcement today it will allocate $250.5 million over the next four years.
The new funding would be shared “across a range of specialties”, according to a Labor statement, along with an additional $56.8 million in financial incentives that would be available to GPs and specialists who participated in delivering online services.
The latest election promise, which Labor estimated would provide about 495,000 additional services to Australians in remote, rural and outer metropolitan areas, has been welcomed by GP groups.
RACGP president Dr Chris Mitchell said that while more detail was needed regarding the levels of rebates and what they would cover, the college would be keen to work with a re-elected government to implement the program.
“There are issues such as having a quality framework around these [rebates] to make sure they are being used appropriately, but it is very innovative suggestion,” Dr Mitchell told MO.
“While this is not a substitution for face-to-face consultations, there are in fact a number of consultations that could very effectively be delivered through [telehealth].”
AGPN chair Dr Emil Djakic also praised Labor’s pledge as a long overdue investment in e-health given ongoing GP workforce shortages.
“The ability to diagnose and treat people from a distance has existed for a long time – what’s been absent up until now has been the willingness and capacity to pay for it,” Dr Djakic said.
“Online telehealth opportunities will radically change the treatment programs for rural and remote patients suffering chronic diseases like diabetes, or for those patients requiring greater and more immediate access for mental health treatments.”