In a move that appears contrary to the public health message about the benefits of sport and exercise, the Minister for Health and Ageing, and Medicare Australia has abolished Medicare item numbers for Sports and Exercise physicians from 1 November 2010.
The rebate for seeing a sports and exercise physician will be cut by 33-50% due to their reclassification as procedural specialists rather than the more appropriate consultation-based care offered by consultant physicians.
All patients seeing sports and exercise physicians will need a medical referral or face an even greater reduction in the rebate they receive.
The Australasian College of Sports Physicians and the AMA are lobbying to attempt to get the government to re-consider these changes. If you would like to support this campaign please make your wishes known to:
- The Hon. Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health and Ageing,
- Your local federal member of parliament:
- Medicare Australia, at medicareaustralia.gov.au, go to feedback,
customer feedback and service charter feedback form
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PATIENTS?
- Referral from a doctor is needed to see a Sports and Exercise Physician at Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre. A referral will be required for each new injury/episode.
- Consultations with Sports and Exercise Physicians will receive a lesser rebate from Medicare than previously.
- General practitioners will remain in the loop of patient care and communication.
- Referrals from Sports and Exercise Physicians to other referrers will be limited to 3 months duration.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR REFERRERS?
- Non-medical referrers will need to refer via the patients GP
- Communication with all involved in the patients care will be deliberately maintained
- Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre will attempt to maintain its ongoing support of all referrers within the rules imposed by Medicare Australia
The Australasian College of Sports Physicians was founded in 1985 to promote excellence in sports medicine care and educate sports physicians to a specialist level. A specialist training programme has been in place since 1990 and is seen as at least equivalent to any other medical specialty training in Australia and a leading programme for Sport and Exercise Medicine in the world. The College has campaigned for recognition of its area of specialization since the training programme was established.
Part recognition of the role of Sports and Exercise Physicians was given by Medicare in granting specific item numbers for access only by sports physicians in 2005. Sports and Exercise Physicians saw this as recognition of their specialist skills and training and a stepping stone to full recognition as a specialty within health services sector.
In November 2009 the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing, announced that Australasian College of Sports Physicians had been successful in achieving recognition of Sport and Exercise Medicine as a new medical specialty in Australia. As a result, Sport and Exercise Medicine is now included in the Australian Medical Councils List of Australian Recognised Medical Specialties. The decision to include the new specialty into the Medicare system was announced in the May 2010 Federal Budget. Unfortunately no further information has been forthcoming until 12 October 2010 giving 13 working days for implementation of changes, necessary paperwork and informing all patients and referrers. There has been no allowance for a transitionary period. This has removed the sports physician item numbers and reallocated sports physicians to the category of procedural specialists such as surgeons rather than to the more appropriate consultation-based care offered by consultant physicians.
Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre Pty Ltd will consider and consult with its stakeholders on the significance of these changes and how they can be accommodated whilst maintaining high quality care and service to patients and referrers.