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BCNA News 14 Nov 2019

BCNA welcomes telehealth rebates

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has welcomed the expansion of Medicare rebates to include telehealth consultations.

Rebates for the telehealth sessions became available through Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) on 1 November and will give greater access to health professionals for rural members via GP telehealth consultations.

It is designed to help improve care for patients in areas classified as Modified Monash Model 6 and 7, which includes remote parts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

A total of 12 new telehealth specific items have been included on the MBS.

To be eligible for subsidised telehealth consultations, patients are required to:

  • live in a Modified Monash Model 6 or 7 location;
  • have an existing clinical relationship with the GP providing the telehealth consultation (defined as three face-to-face consultations in the past 12 months); and
  • be at least 15 kilometres by road from their GP.

BCNA CEO Kirsten Pilatti said the addition of telehealth services to Medicare would be welcomed by rural members.

‘A breast cancer diagnosis can financially devastate a rural family. In addition to the lack of nearby professional health services, rural people typically have to absorb the costs of travel and accommodation.

‘Access to telehealth is an issue BCNA has been pursuing for some time and we would like to thank the Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt and his team for listening and responding.’

Additional scan rebates

In addition to the telehealth announcement, two further Australian Government initiatives came into effect on the same day to ease the financial burden for Australians affected by breast cancer.

Women with, or suspected of having, breast cancer can now claim Medicare benefits for breast MRI scans. New rebates are also available for some PET scan services.

Medicare rebates will be available for preliminary MRI scans for:

  • diagnosis of breast cancer in women where other imaging was inconclusive and a biopsy has not been possible
  • pre-surgical planning for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, where there is discrepancy between clinical assessment and conventional imaging assessment.

The new PET services added are:

  • whole body PET performed for the staging of locally advanced (Stage III) breast cancer
  • whole body PET performed for the evaluation of suspected metastatic, or suspected locally or regionally recurrent, breast carcinoma.

About 12,000 to 14,000 patients each year, predominantly women, are expected to benefit from the new rebates.

Kirsten said the new items would help reduce the out-of-pocket costs faced by people with breast cancer.