Cancer specialists have welcomed confirmation from health minister Greg Hunt the federal government will extend Medicare rebates for telephone consultations.
The rebates, which which were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, were planned to end at the end of December.
However, in response to concerns from stakeholders and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, Minister Hunt announced they will be extended by a further six months.
The Private Cancer Physicians of Australia (PCPA) had raised urgent concerns over the potential impact on patients in regonal areas, particularly the elderley.
PCPA president Associate Professor Christopher Steer welcomed the announcement as an "immense relief" for cancer patients and their families.
“At a time of surging pandemic, we need our immunocompromised vulnerable Australians to stay at home and not be forced to travel into public areas where COVID-19 may be rampant,” he said.
“We are very supportive of Telehealth, particularly during this pandemic and making it permanent was a welcome decision but then the fine print was only revealed days before Christmas.”
Associate Professor Steer acknowledged the government's response to the urgent advocacy that led to its reinstatement of the Medicare item number 91835 for telephone consultations.
He said the PCPA will continue to advocate for the reinstatement of the 50 per cent loading (item number 112) for video consultations for regional and rural patients.
The PCPA also welcomed the extension of rebates for patients in hospital to receive a telephone consultation with their specialist.
“We must always prioritise the wellbeing of our most vulnerable Australians,” added Associate Professor Steer.