Patient harm from removal of pathology bulk billing incentives: pathologists

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The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia has warned that removal of the Bulk Billing Incentive for Pathology services, announced by the Federal Government, is expected to have a detrimental impact on healthcare delivery in Australia and harm patients.

The cuts will take effect from 01 July 2016 and will equate to $650 million over four years for Pathology and Diagnostic Imaging.

Dr Michael Harrison, President of the RCPA says that this decision threatens the viability of pathology and is a direct attack by the Government on the quality and equitable delivery of pathology services.

“We have not been consulted at all in relation to this removal of the Bulk Billing Incentives for Pathology,” he says.

“These changes will undoubtedly compromise the high standards of care provided by the Australian pathology profession and it is very likely that patients will suffer.

“Patient care is always our top priority and these cuts will disenfranchise a segment of the population and lead to increased non-compliance with their doctor’s requests for pathology testing due to the requirement of a co-payment.”

Effectively, the Government is removing bulk billing as an option on pathology tests, he says, which will inevitably result in some patients forgoing vital tests.

“This could have untold effects across healthcare, including: delaying the effective early diagnosis of cancer leading to premature deaths; compromising the effective treatment of diabetes and chronic diseases; and threatening the services of rural pathology.

“Clearly this shows the Government’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the impact that this withdrawal of funding will have on patients and healthcare overall.

“Australia has been internationally recognised for the highest standards of pathology practice, which now has the potential to be compromised. Pathology is already under a lot of financial stress.  It is very unlikely that laboratories will be able to absorb these costs and, as a result, will need to pass them on to the patient, increasing out of pocket expenses to the patient and causing unnecessary harm.”

“This removal of the Bulk Billing Incentive for pathology is also particularly unforeseen, when considering the recent B12 and Folate cuts from November last year and our support of the MBS Review.”

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