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31 Oct 2019

Changes to Medicare will now allow aged care residents to have x-rays without having to go to hospital.

From November 2019, a Medicare rebate will be available as a call-out fee for the provision of mobile skeletal x-ray services conducted at a residential aged care facility (RACF).

“These services include x-rays of the shoulder, pelvis, ribs and sternum; chest x-rays for suspected pneumonia or heart failure; and abdominal x-rays for acute abdomen or bowel obstruction,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Mobile Medicare x-ray services were recommended by the independent expert Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said residents within a residential aged care facility who would otherwise need to be transferred to a hospital through an emergency department will get more timely diagnosis and treatment.

“This will significantly improve access to medical treatment for older Australians, and save on expensive costs, often including an ambulance, that come with transferring a resident from an aged care facility to a hospital,” Senator Colbeck said.

The AMA lodged a submission to MSAC supporting this new item. The submission’s main points to support this were:

  • Transfers to hospital for imaging services are expensive, can be confusing/stressful for the patient and can increase risk of infection.
  • Many RACFs rely on family members/staff taking the resident to the imaging service. This can take up a lot of time.

The AMA argued that the item fee had to be financially viable for providers as many RACF services are bulk-billed.


Breast cancer MRI also added to Medicare

 In another previously flagged change to rebates, Women with or suspected of having breast cancer can claim Medicare benefits for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Starting November 2019, Medicare rebates will be available for MRI scans for:

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

The new items for breast MRI should significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs faced by breast cancer patients. The Government will provide $32.6 million for Medicare benefits for the services.



Published: 31 Oct 2019