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AMA vice president doctor Stephen Parnis

AMA wants bigger say in MBS review

The federal government's proposed review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule met with sharp objections from the Australian Medical Association this week.

AMA president professor Brian Owler did not spare words in response to Health Minister Sussan Ley’s announcement, calling it “a direct attack on the integrity of the medical profession".

This was not because doctors are opposed to a potential reform, the AMA said. Quite the opposite.

“The AMA has been cautiously supportive of this approach since it was announced way back in April," the association's vice-president, Dr Stephen Parnis, said. "We have long acknowledged that the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which was put together in 1984, at the beginning of Medicare, is now out of date in many ways.”

The sticking point is that the association fears the review is merely a dressed-up attempt by the government to cut costs, rather than truly modernise the Medicare system.

“We have to call that for what it is," Parnis said. "We cannot allow the government, under the cloak of improving quality, to try to pull substantial amounts of money out of health.”

To restore the medical profession's confidence in the quality and good faith of the planned reform, Parnis said, the government must approach the issue in a more open manner, and take on board advice from professionals in the field. Doctors should be allowed to make recommendations for adding, removing or updating certain item numbers, he argued.

Parnis summed up the crux of the matter succinctly: “When you’re renovating a house, you don’t remove furniture without a budget to replace it.”

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