3 August 2021

PM rejects vax cash: ‘I’m already paying GPs’

covid vaccine MBS RACGP TheHill

The government has rejected Labor’s idea of paying the public to get vaccinated against covid, with the Prime Minister saying he was paying GPs to talk through patient concerns.

At a press conference today, Scott Morrison said he didn’t believe that a cash reward would motivate the public to come forward to get vaccinated. 

But in implying that there was ample Medicare rebates available not just for vaccination in general practice, but for lengthy counselling, he ignored the sector’s recent calls for appropriate rebates.

“If [Australians] do have hesitancy about vaccines, I am not going to pay them off,” Mr Morrison said.

“I’m going to pay a GP to sit down with them and go through their concerns, which is what I have already done.”

In reality, the MBS items available for covid vaccination don’t reimburse general practice for the services Mr Morrison touted. The combined rebates per twice-dosed patient amount to one-fifth of Labor’s payment, if you include the $10 PIP, and the only way to make this viable is to have a fast flow of patients.

In June, the Department of Health revealed two new level B equivalent MBS items to assist GPs in longer vaccine consults. 

It came in response to GPs facing longer consults with patients who had concerns over ATAGI’s changing advice over the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But the most recent vaccination items (10660 and 10661) must be bulk-billed, and can only be co-claimed with existing vaccine suitability assessment items.

With the items being linked, there is an assumption that the leisurely consult will conclude with a covid vaccine being administered – but this is unfeasible in a fast-moving vaccination clinic.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has proposed a cash payment of $300 for every individual fully vaccinated by 1 December.

Labor argued that its plan, which would cost the taxpayer about $6 billion, would be insignificant compared to the ongoing costs of sweeping lockdown restrictions due to Australia’s low vaccination rates.

A recent preprint on medRxiv suggests cash payments would incentivise unvaccinated individuals to go for a shot.

In the meantime, the RACGP has been lobbying the DoH to reconsider its restrictions around using vaccine counselling items.

The DoH told TMR that the existing counselling items were developed in conjunction with peak medical bodies, and allowed GPs to provide sufficient vaccine counselling to patients.

“The in-depth patient assessment must be undertaken in conjunction with the vaccine suitability assessment service, and is not intended to be a stand-alone service,” a representative said. 

The DoH gave no hint it was likely to change the descriptor of the existing vaccination items in response to recent pressure from the sector.

“To further support the choice of Australians considering their vaccine options, we’ve provided two Medicare items for GPs and other medical practitioners participating in the covid-19 vaccine rollout to provide in-depth clinical assessments,” said a DoH representative.

“Where a patient has a consultation which may include a request for information and advice about covid-19 vaccinations, provided the requirements of the relevant MBS item are met, it would be appropriate to address these matters in the course of a normal general practice attendance service, with standard processes applying about ensuring informal financial consent as to how that service is billed.

“These new Medicare items were developed in consultation with the peak medical groups and allow GPs to support patients who require additional time for assessment and advice, particularly in relation to the patient’s individual risks and benefits, to support informed consent and subsequent covid-19 vaccination.”

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Dr Linda
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Dr Linda
3 months 22 days ago

Maybe ScoMo could add an item number for those of us who are counselling patients and not providing the vaccines.

Sunny
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Sunny
3 months 22 days ago

Pittance without any consultation or discussion about the vaccination roll-out with the very people who have to deal with the fall-out from a piecemeal and haphazard process.
Shows you the utter disregard of the the PM to the reality of what happens in primary care.
Very disappointing!!!

Dr Ross
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Dr Ross
3 months 23 days ago
What a total and utter joke, Morrison! You should pay the GP’s a proper and appropriate payment – what’s on offer by you is mere peanuts. $39.1 is only 46% of Common Fee of $84 (item 23) is utter insulting to push your agenda. You would not accept a $265,850 discount of your high salary as PM – then don’t do it to us!! Professional attendance by a general practitioner, if all of the following apply: (a) the service is associated with a service to which item 93624, 93625, 93634, 93635, 93644, 93645, 93653 or 93654 applies; (b) the service… Read more »
Peter Bradley
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Peter Bradley
3 months 23 days ago

The man clearly has NO idea of the cost of running a practice. It’s as simple as that. How to make him understand..? Will it take the wholesale collapse of the whole primary care service to get their attention..? Probably…

J Davis
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J Davis
3 months 23 days ago

Scomo isalready paid to be a PM. Therefore he does not need an electoral or office allowance to cover his expenses.

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