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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Australian Pathology urges an end to the 24-year freeze

Health Industry Hub | February 14, 2024 |

Diagnostics & MedTech News: The peak national body representing private pathology providers has called on the Federal Government to lift the unprecedented 24-year freeze on indexation rates for pathology services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

Australian Pathology is advocating for a $630 million investment over four years to reinstate indexation, ensuring the continued viability of the sector and the retention of high rates of bulk billing.

Liesel Wett, CEO of Australian Pathology, emphasised the critical role of pathology in healthcare, stating, “Pathology is an essential part of the nation’s healthcare system – and 70% of all medical decisions rely on pathology. GPs and other healthcare professionals can’t do their job without pathology.

“But unlike other parts of the health system, the sector hasn’t seen a change to the indexation rate that applies to pathology services for 24 years.”

The pre-budget submission contends that, unlike other segments of the health system, pathology services have missed out on crucial adjustments to counteract the impact of a 97.2% rise in CPI inflation and an estimated $13.8 billion in cumulative indexation since 1999.

Ms Wett underscored the urgent need for support, stating, “We need to invest in the Medicare model – which is why we’re seeking an investment of funds that will lift that freeze, support the sustainability of the sector, and help keep pathology bulk billed. At a time when Australians are doing it tough with the cost of living, we want to protect and enhance Australia’s high rate of bulk billing.”

Pathology Technology Australia urges overdue investment as $7B in value lost in healthcare budget

The submission outlines key points, including the necessity of a $630 million investment over four years, commencing immediately, to reinstate indexation across the entire Pathology Services Table under the MBS. The proposed funding aims to provide indexation rates between 1.375% and 1.5% for each of the next four years.

Highlighting the unique predicament of the pathology sector, the submission emphasises that approximately 1 million Australians interact with the pathology sector at over 6,000 Pathology Approved Collection Centres (ACCs) each week.

Ms Wett warned about the potential consequences of financial barriers, stating, “The costs to patients, hospitals, and taxpayers from people putting off pathology tests because they’re too expensive would be enormous.”

Expressing concern over the current trends, Ms Wett pointed out, “Unfortunately, the number of Medicare Pathology Services is already down by more than 700,000 when you compare June 2021 to June 2023 – showing that cost-of-living pressures are already having an impact on crucial healthcare decisions. We need to keep pathology bulk billed, as it’s essential to the job GPs and other healthcare professionals do every day in delivering the best outcomes possible for their patients.”

As the government contemplates the upcoming budget, the call from Australian Pathology adds to the growing chorus advocating for increased investment in healthcare.

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