Major parties stake 'heart health' claim

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The federal government and Labor opposition have both committed to the introduction of Medicare-funded heart health checks.

Health minister Greg Hunt announced the creation of a new MBS item for heart health checks from 1 April this year. The item will support GPs and patients in assessing cardiovascular risk.

"One Australian dies of cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes, with one Australian experiencing a heart attack or stroke every five minutes," said Mr Hunt.

"This dedicated Medicare item for heart health checks will save and protect lives."

Cardiovascular disease is Australia’s leading cause of death and illness – with almost 8,000 deaths a year from heart attacks alone.

Shadow health minister Catherine King announced that, if elected, a Bill Shorten-led Labor government would also fund a new Medicare item for comprehensive heart health checks.

Under the $170 million plan, all at-risk Australians will be able to undergo heart health checks as part of a comprehensive vascular screen that tests their blood pressure and cholesterol, and looks at lifestyle factors such as smoking status.

The AMA welcomed the commitment by both major parties. “The support for comprehensive health checks to tackle cardiovascular disease is an acknowledgement of the importance of general practice to preventive health care,” said president Dr Tony Bartone.

“Longer consultations enhance continuity of care, and the AMA looks forward to seeing further announcements detailing plans for investment in general practice in the lead-up to the next election."

Dr Bartone continued, “It is heartening to see that, as we approach the Federal Election, the major parties have turned their attention to better supporting general practice.

“General practice is in urgent need of an injection of new funding as Australia tackles the growing burden of complex and chronic disease, and the need for prevention."