ADF – 26th January 2012

‘The great majority of Medicare claims requiring doctor involvement are handled honestly,’ Dr Bruce Shepherd, Chairman of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, said in Sydney today.

Dr Shepherd was commenting on an article in the MJA by Dr Tony Webber, former and controversial head of the Medicare Professional Services Review (PSR) committee.

‘There are 300 million transactions per annum through Medicare, and only a small number of practitioners end up in difficulties with the Review Board,’ Dr Shepherd said. ‘The honesty of our doctors in the use of Medicare has been remarkable in my experience.’

‘There is a big difference between design faults in the system and deliberate dishonesty and the profession should not be blamed for institutionalised problems over which they have no control.’

‘When Medicare was introduced, I warned the profession that they would become the scapegoats for a system that, to work, had to be open to wide interpretation.’

Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate, said all doctors using Medicare Item numbers were liable to pay back any amounts that were wrongly billed, either by accident or design.

‘Our advice would be for doctors not to use a Medicare Item number or Provider number on their account, but often the Medicare office wrongly demands that numbers be included on an account before they will pay a patient rebate,’ Mr Milgate said.

Medicare is a professional hazard for all medical practitioners and now numerous other professional groups have been invited to bill Medicare for their services.

Dr Tony Webber’s claims of cost-shifting are well-known to the health bureaucracy and to legislators.

Despite Medicare agreements to the contrary, health bureaucrats, both state and federal, have contrived schemes to cost-shift from State to Commonwealth. This is clear evidence of system re-design by the health bureaucracy to get around legislation.

‘Our advice to doctors in public hospitals has been to not become involved in any arrangement which is not endorsed specifically in writing to the practitioner by the CEO of Medicare. Our doctors are the meat in the sandwich of these bureaucratic cost-shifting contrivances,’ Mr Milgate said.

Contact details: Mr Stephen Milgate 0425 283 411