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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Patients and specialists urge government to extend funding of Heart Health Checks

Health Industry Hub | April 21, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: More than 17,000 Australians have so far signed a petition to save the Medicare funded Heart Health Check from extinction as the nation continues to wait for the government to extend funding for the lifesaving check beyond 30 June.

Hundreds more have written to their local MPs concerned that from 1 July any Australian turning 45 (or 30 if First Nations) will miss out on the Medicare-subsidised Heart Health Check, which is an effective tool to identify and manage an individual’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

A lack of funding for the item will see it vanish entirely, unravelling decades of hard work by the Heart Foundation and the broader health sector to create a healthier Australia.

Professor Jason Kovacic, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, said the Medicare-funded Heart Health Check item is needed more than ever with heart attacks on the rise across the country.

“We need to be carrying out more of these potentially life-saving tests and should not be trying to cut back on this program. I fear this will lead to lives being lost unnecessarily,” said Professor Kovacic.

According to MBS data, more than 440,000 Australians have seen their GP for a Check over the four years, likely to surpass the original 450,000 target set at the time in 2019.

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute is one of eight heart health groups, including Hearts4heart, which has been strongly advocating to retain Heart Health Checks on the MBS and make its inclusion permanent. The group is also calling for Auscultation to be added to the Heart Health Test assessment – which would allow GPs to use a stethoscope to listen to the heart and be able to detect conditions such as aortic stenosis – a serious condition that involves narrowing of one of the valves of the heart.

Despite the calls from specialists and patient groups, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) are calling for the removal of Heart Health Assessment items from the MBS. Any redirected funding would allow GPs to do longer consultations and not focus on just heart disease.

Professor Stephen Nicholls, Director of Victorian Heart Institute, Monash University and Director of Victorian Heart Hospital, Monash Health, is also advocating for the retainment of the Heart Health Checks.

He said “Support for screening like the heart check has flow on effects in the long term. Disease prevention and early detection comes with obvious economic benefits and relieves burden on our health care system.”

Results from Victor Chang Heart Health Check specialist team, which conducts a community testing service, found the number of people who had abnormal cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels had increased from 33% to 47% since the start of COVID-19 – a relative 42% increase.

Heart disease is a silent killer and the nation’s leading cause of death.

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