The AMA has complained about a lack of transparency in the MBS Review process and called for closer consultation with the profession and a smoother approach to changes.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone listed a number of grievances in a recent letter to the MBS Taskforce Chair, Professor Bruce Robinson.
He said the AMA was losing confidence in the review because of inadequate consultation time after reports were issued at the same time with unreasonable demands for responses.
“I note that whilst the MBS Taskforce has deliberated on recommendations over the last several years, the profession has been given only weeks or months to respond,” Dr Bartone wrote.
“The AMA has heard of significant dissatisfaction amongst the craft groups regarding the unreasonable timeframes.
“The AMA therefore, urges the taskforce to be flexible on the consultation timelines, as is reasonably practical, to ensure proposed changes are based on robust clinical and profession feedback.”
Separately, the peak medical body called on the taskforce to make all the clinical committee reports publicly available on the internet as they are released.
Dr Bartone also called for a better approach to the implementation of the taskforce’s decisions on MBS items to avoid “major financial issues”.
The taskforce was established in 2015 to oversee the review of more than 5700 MBS items to ensure value for money and best practice.
Making significant changes, without adequate lead time, meant that neither the health funds, members, the AMA, or patients could be part of an informed financial consent process, he said.
The AMA had raised these concerns with the Health Department and the minister.
While the department may be ready to carry out changes to MBS items on a set date, unless the AMA, the insurers and the profession had sufficient notice and the ability to adapt own schedules, “a level of confusion will be created”.
“You’ll either end up with insurers not ready with their benefit schedules, or insurers pricing the same service under the new items at a different price due to not having the information they need, or both,” Dr Bartone said.
“How do I know this? Well that’s what is happening right now with the 1 November changes.”
The latest changes included items related to sleep studies, spirometry, capsule endoscopy, treatment of overactive bladder, cryopreservation of semen and focused psychology therapy.
More transparency would ensure that relevant craft groups were not overlooked, and multiple clinical committees with overlapping issues and specialties could be cross-referenced for accuracy and consistency, the AMA said.
It said the taskforce’s oncology review had failed to consult with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the colonoscopy review had inadvertently excluded the Australian Private Hospitals Association.