More support from Medicare
Thousands of Australian patients and their families will now be able to access
new Medicare supported treatments for breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease,
epilepsy, stroke, lymphoma and liver tumours. Women with a family history of
breast and ovarian cancer will be supported through a new genetic testing
through the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic tests.
The new Medicare services will be available to women who are diagnosed with
breast or ovarian cancer, following an assessment by a medical
specialist. If they are found to have the mutations, their close
relatives will also be eligible for testing through Medicare. A total of 33 new
Medicare items will be available from November 1, following the
Nationals-Liberal Government’s decision to implement recommendations from
independent Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).
An estimated 800 patients a year, who are not suitable for open heart surgery,
will be able to receive Medicare support for a Transcatheter Aortic Valve
Implantation (TAVI), an innovative minimally invasive procedure to replace
diseased aortic valves.
More than 2,000 patients with slow growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma (lymphatic
cancer) will benefit by accessing PET (positron emission tomography) imaging,
allowing patients and their doctors to monitor the progress of the disease
using nuclear medicine diagnostic services. More than 700 patients a year, who
cannot take blood-thinning medication, will now be able to access a new service
to insert a device which can lower the risk of stroke in people who have an
irregular heart rhythm.
Stroke patients will also receive Medicare access for mechanical thrombectomy,
an important new treatment to mechanically remove blood clots from the brain,
minimise damage and greatly improve patients’ prognosis.
Around 200 people a year are expected to undergo this procedure which is used
to dissolve blood clots, or for patients who are not suitable for medication
therapy. In addition, six new Medicare items will be added for vagus nerve
stimulation therapy for management of treatment resistant epilepsy.
Microwave tissue ablation for primary liver tumours will also be added as an
alternative to radio frequency ablation treatment for patients who have tumours
that cannot be treated by conventional surgery. MSAC provides independent
advice to the Australian Government on the safety, clinical efficacy and
cost-effectiveness of new medical technologies and procedures.
The Government has a rock solid commitment to Medicare, bulk billing and the
PBS and our Long Term National Health Plan will ensure that Australians will
continue to be supported by one of the best health systems in the world, long
into the future.
Protecting the integrity of the welfare system
The Coalition Government is serious about protecting the
integrity of the welfare system. Tip-offs are a very important source of
information which help us discover fraud and ensure people who commit it are
caught and prosecuted where appropriate.
In 2016-17, the Department of Human Services received a
total of 108,798 tip-offs relating to its Welfare Programme. Over the past four
years, there has been a 10 percent increase in the number of tip-offs received.
The welfare debts raised through tip-offs in 2016-17
totalled nearly $40 million. In addition, the estimated fortnightly savings to
the taxpayer as a result of this work totalled $1.4 million.
All tip-offs from the public are assessed by specialist
staff and they invest substantial effort to ensure they are dealt with
appropriately. Tip-offs are received by the Department from numerous sources,
including telephone, online, email, letters, direct contact at a Service Centre
or other government departments and agencies. If you suspect someone is
committing welfare fraud you can report it via the Reporting Fraud webpage at humanservices.gov.au/fraud or by
calling the Fraud Tip-Off Line on 131 524
Boost for mental health services in the bush
People living in rural and remote Australia will now have improved access to psychological services under a new telehealth initiative. A major barrier to rural residents accessing vital mental health treatment will be removed with introduction of a new Medicare rebate. This will apply to online videoconferencing mental health consultations with psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. Under the new expanded arrangements for the Better Access program, up to seven of the ten sessions currently available through Medicare mental health plans will be available via telehealth.
One of the first four sessions will be face to face. This helps build a personal connection with the treating health professional. This new initiative significantly reduces the inconvenience, time and expense of having to travel to larger regional centres and means health professionals will be able to connect sooner with their rural and remote patients.
Upgrade of key east-west links underway
The next step has been taken in upgrading one of the key east-west transcontinental road links across Australia, with the Coalition Government formally approving $100 million for 13 high priority upgrade projects on the Outback Way.
The funding delivers on the Coalition’s 2016 election commitment to upgrade the 2,700-kilometre route crossing Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Around 210 kilometres of Outback Way will be sealed and widened by mid-2021, including 182 kilometres which is currently unsealed.