AMA president Dr Tony Bartone has slammed a strategic partnership between Bupa and TerryWhite Chemmart as “outrageous”
Under the partnership, which is set to launch in May, Bupa’s four million health insurance customers will have access to several initiatives and a health app, which the two organisations say are aimed at providing value and personalised care from the TerryWhite Chemmart network.
Earlier this week the group unveiled its plan for growth over the next 12 months, which includes several strategic partnership programs.
In announcing the plan with Bupa, TerryWhite Chemmart CEO Anthony White said that the partnership was an important strategic alliance aligned with its vision to be customers’ choice for health and value to become Australia’s favourite pharmacy.
He said both companies saw the value of working together on programs that would be of significant benefit to the customers of both organisations including helping them feel rewarded and valued for staying healthy.
“We have a reputation for delivering professional trusted advice, great value prices and highly accessible frontline healthcare. Our partnership with Bupa will allow us to offer that service to more Australians.”
Bupa Health Insurance Managing Director, Dr Dwayne Crombie said the partnership is intended to deliver more value for money for customers and make healthcare easier to access.
“Health insurance has traditionally had limited involvement in pharmacy. This partnership will provide customers with an opportunity to reduce costs on medication and pharmaceutical supplies and have ready access to healthcare advice and preventative care,” Dr Crombie said.
But Dr Bartone said that the plan could lead to patients receiving inappropriate primary health care and advice.
“General practice is the foundation of quality primary health care in Australia, and any threats to undermine it or replace it with inferior models of care must be rejected,” he said.
“It is outrageous that a large health insurer like Bupa would endeavour to undermine general practice, especially after a thorough Government review of private health insurance to ensure that policyholders received high quality and value for money for their significant investment in insurance.
“This partnership will fragment quality primary health care and put further question marks over the value of private health insurance – just as radical new reforms are being implemented.”
He said the AMA plans to enquire of Bupa what services they plan to offer under the arrangement.
It also intends to ask why there has been no consultation with the AMA and the wider medical profession about what he called a “potentially dangerous” initiative.
“Pharmacies marketing unnecessary and expensive pathology tests and other ‘health screening’ services to their customers is a push to increase profits at the expense of evidence-based, cost-effective health care,” said Dr Bartone.
“These activities are not within the scope of practice of a pharmacist.
“Pharmacies in the community play an important role in providing medicines information to the public, and ensuring that all Australians have access to medicines in a timely and safe manner.
“But doctors are the only health professionals trained to fully assess a person, initiate further investigations, make a diagnosis, and understand and recommend the full range of clinically appropriate treatments for a given condition.
“Health checks, screening activities and diagnostic tests should only be conducted if they are clinically indicated, backed by evidence, and cost effective.
“Unnecessary ‘health checks’ are costly for patients and can cause needless concern.
“There is no doubt that hiving off certain aspects of health care, such as screening and pathology ordering, only duplicates effort and fragments care.
“This Bupa partnership is an insult to GPs and a dud deal for Bupa customers,” he said.