My Heart (Health Check) will go on

4 minute read

The drip-feed of budget announcements continues, with the extension of a controversial item and more money for HIV testing and access.

Health budget seedlings continue to break through into the sunshine before Tuesday’s official speech, with Heart Health checks, HIV testing and LGBTQIA+ health equity making an early appearance.

The 20-minute Heart Health Check (Medicare items 177 and 699) has been extended until 30 June 2025. For non-Indigenous Australians over 45 years, and First Nations people over 30 years, the check is designed for use in general practice.

To use the item, a GP checks their patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and asks key questions about nutrition, exercise, medical and family history. All of these factors allow the GP to use a validated risk prediction equation to accurately assess their patient’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. The GP can then develop a preventative action plan to help that person take the necessary action to reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

“The items will also be amended to remove restrictions preventing First Nations people from claiming a heart health assessment within 12 months of an annual health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, supporting the earlier diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in First Nations people,” said the Department of Health announcement.

Health Minister Mark Butler said that with “about 250,000 people expected to receive a heart health assessment over the next two years”, extending the item had the potential to save thousands of lives.

Not all GPs were excited by the news, however.

Dr Karen Price, immediate past president of the RACGP said in her clinic items 177 and 699 were “not used”.

Others agreed.

Heart Foundation CEO David Lloyd was upbeat about the announcement, saying it showed the government was listening.

“It shows that this government understands the important role that prevention can play in saving lives from heart disease,” he said. 

“And to our wonderful GPs, nurses and general practice staff who have so far delivered more than 450,000 Heart Health Checks since 2019 and have accessed our toolkit more than 100,000 times – we thank you for your important work to date.” 

Mr Butler also flagged the allotment of an additional $19.7 million to “ensure better access to HIV testing, treatment and information, including support for the HIV workforce and to continue to address other blood borne viruses and STIs”. 

He promised to: 

  • expand access to HIV treatment for people who are ineligible for Medicare; 
  • extend the HIV testing vending machine pilot to increase access to HIV testing for students in South Australia; 
  • fund the Emen8 website, a critical information hub for sharing HIV information for members of the LGBTIQA+ community; 
  • fund the HIV Online Learning Australia program to provide up-to-date education and training for the HIV workforce; 

The extra $19.7m comes on top of the announcement of the development of a 10-year national action plan for the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ community, including $26 million in funding for research into new and improved ways to provide healthcare. 

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×