Government adopts more MBS changes

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The Department of Health has announced a number changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule following recommendations from the MBS Review Taskforce.

The Taskforce was established in 2015 to examine all the items listed on the MBS and recommend changes to align services with contemporary, evidence-based medical practice. 

The new changes cover post-surgery attendance, gastroenterology, obstetric, ear, nose and throat services, as well as bone mineral density tests, colonoscopy and rebates for some GP services. They include amendments, new restrictions, new items and the removal of some items.

Some of the changes provide greater specificity and clarity to providers. The new items cover longer consultations for specific pregnancy complications, postnatal attendance and a consultation at a patient’s home.

Government will remove MBS coverage for cauterisation of the pharynx as it is no longer considered appropriate clinical practice.

Changes to a number of MBS obstetrics items and the introduction of six new items to align MBS obstetrics items with clinical best practice.

The number of MBS-funded bone mineral density tests for patients aged 70 and over will be cut from yearly to five-yearly.

"The two new items for individuals aged 70 years and over, take into account the clinical evidence that bone density loss is a relatively slow process, and that changes in bone loss cannot be reliably measured by yearly testing. The introduction of these new items will reduce the number of individuals in this age group who receive unnecessary repeat testing," according to a new fact sheet.

New restrictions will also be imposed on four region spinal x-ray items. Only medical practitioners, physiotherapists and osteopaths, will be able to request the tests. In addition, the MBS one and two region spinal x-ray items will be amended so that allied health practitioners cannot request more than one, of any of the one and two region spinal x-ray services for the same patient on the same day.

Two MBS items for colonoscopy will be replaced by 20 new items that, according to a fact sheet, "better describe the indications for initial colonoscopy and ensure appropriate surveillance intervals of patients at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer."

"These changes are intended to address significant national variation in per capita use of colonoscopy that cannot be explained by clinical or patient demographic factors," it adds.

Another change will see some procedures performed by specialists and GPs equally remunerated.

The change will see 31 GP items removed and amendments to 43 items to allow both GPs and specialists to claim the same fee.

Most of the changes will begin on 1 November, with the exception of changes to colonoscopy, which will begin on 1 March 2018.