Task force to operate on ailing Medicare

·2-min read

A Medicare task force has been told the primary care system is in a "parlous state", as it committed to an overhaul.

Health Minister Mark Butler on Friday met with leaders in the sector appointed to the task force for the first time.

In the past decade the average out-of-pocket cost for GP services had risen by 60 per cent.

The meeting concluded with a pledge to work on five focus areas which the task force said would deliver "concrete results for patients".

They included:

* training and development for the primary health care workforce

* increased access to multidisciplinary care, harnessing the full skills of nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals

* new models of care and stronger relationships between patients and practices

* modern, patient-centred and easy access to care, harnessing technology, and

* providing universal health care and access for all through health care that is inclusive and reduces disadvantage.

"The government is committed to ensuring Australians get the care they need, when they need it and without worrying about the cost," Mr Butler said.

The Labor government has pledged $750 million in the Strengthening Medicare Fund to turn the proposals into concrete actions.

The task force includes representatives from the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

It also includes a number of academics, GPs, a representative from the Allied Health Professions Australia and Consumers Health Forum, and the National Rural Health Commissioner.

Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells said the task force would drive necessary changes to the system.

"The Consumers Health Forum is pleased that the government has made a commitment to invest in urgent reform following decades of review, neglect, serial funding cuts, over reliance on fees for service, and blanket restrictions to Medicare rebates," she said.

The organisation is calling for voluntary patient registration, enabling people with chronic and multiple health conditions to develop a relationship with their GP practice instead of an appointment-based fee for service.

It also wants to see more practices offering a range of multidisciplinary services, such as nursing, allied health, pharmacy and health coaches, sharing resources, services and practitioners.

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