Patient anger over 'political wrangling'

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The failure to make changes to the Prostheses List is a "disaster" for patients with atrial fibrillation, according to Tanya Hall, CEO of hearts4heart.

Speaking in response to the announcement by health minister Greg Hunt of changes to private health insurance and the pricing of prostheses, Ms Hall said, "Money has trumped the needs of patients."

hearts4heart, which represents patients with atrial fibrillation, has been outspoken in calling for intervention from Mr Hunt on the inclusion of catheter ablation on the Prostheses List.

However, his reform announcement of last week only included price reductions to medical devices funded by private health insurers through the Prostheses List, and a review for the potential inclusion of non-implantable devices like catheter ablation.

Catheter ablation involves the use of a non-implantable medical device. As a non-implantable device, with the catheter removed from the body after the procedure, it does not meet the criteria for inclusion on government's Prostheses List. Inclusion would compel private health insurers to fund the procedure.

According to Ms Hall, who also said privately insured patients currently wait around two years for the procedure in a public hospital, “The Health Minister understands that this illogical loophole is causing enormous problems, yet instead of a resolution, we have been told that a bureaucratic review is now planned.

“The last thing patients need is further delay. We need Minister Hunt to intervene and add catheter ablation to the Prosthesis List now.”

Coalition and Labor MPs combined in federal parliament yesterday to pass a motion calling for the inclusion of catheter ablation on the Prosthesis List to be fast-tracked.

“The Government is trumpeting simpler and more affordable private health insurance, but what’s the value of insurance if the surgical procedure needed isn’t covered because the device isn’t left in the body? Hopefully, it’s not too late for common sense to prevail,” said Ms Hall.

Professor Andrew McGavigan from the Flinders Cardiac Centre in Adelaide, said, “Catheter ablation is highly effective, but most successful when performed soon after diagnosis. I am concerned that many patients will continue to face unnecessarily delays in accessing this procedure, prolonging the debilitating effects of atrial fibrillation and leaving them at heightened risk of cardiac complications.”

“We support efforts to reign in the cost of private health insurance, but the health of Australians must remain the priority. I would hate to think that money and influence have trumped the interests of patients,” added Ms Hall.