The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is warning that patients who need electrocardiograms (ECGs) will likely face higher costs due to imminent changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
The changes to MBS items for ECGs, due to come into force on August 1st, will significantly reduce patient rebates for ECGs in general practice, effectively restricting these services to consultant physicians and other specialists.
Under the changes, patients will only be eligible for item 11707 for ECG tracing in general practice, and will no longer be able to claim for tracing and reporting. This will result in a substantially lowered patient rebate.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said the changes would likely result in higher costs and inconvenience for patients.
“The RACGP is deeply disappointed at the decision to reduce patient rebates for ECGs in general practice – these changes are likely to hurt patients through higher costs and inconvenience.
“The decision completely fails to recognise the work GPs do with ECGs – we perform interpretation, report results in patient records and determine actions that need to be taken, very often without needing to refer patients to another specialist for interpretation and reporting.
“The changes mean patients will more likely have to go to more expensive specialists for these services and face higher out of pocket costs.
“The RACGP advocated strongly against these changes for good reason. Chronic conditions requiring ECGs and associated care like heart problems are increasing in Australia.
“Primary care is the most cost effective way of providing high-quality care for such patients – the government should be investing in primary care to keep patients out of the hospital system, instead we are seeing this ripped away.”