Nominate a ‘Medicare Champion’ today

3 minute read

If you work in our underfunded primary care sector, you’re probably one of them.

We’ve had the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, and now Medicare is Stronger, apparently.

The Albanese government is celebrating the scheme’s 40th year with the “Stronger Medicare Awards”, which recognise those “Medicare Champions” who have made a significant contribution to Australia’s primary care sector.

Namely, “individuals and practices that go above and beyond to benefit patients”, according to today’s announcement.

It’s the “above and beyond” that may rankle there for some readers.

Medicare, technically patient insurance but effectively for decades GP pay, is supposed to make it unnecessary to go above and beyond to ensure universal healthcare.

Instead it is the government’s mechanism, along with regular appeals to the sancitity of bulk billing, for underpaying GPs, who have been left to subsidise universal healthcare out of their own pockets while rebates shrivelled. The majority of GPs, if you compare them to non-GP specialists, are going somewhat above and beyond.

There are heroes out there, of course, who deserve recognition for doing more than they’re paid to do. But does the government really want to draw attention to the number of people doing more than they’re paid to, especially in primary care, the best-value-for-money end of any health system?

It smacks of a Labor government stealing a bit of reflected glory by slapping the Medicare brand on health workers’ dedication – a brand more associated with Labor than with its opponents.

Although you don’t need to be paid by Medicare or even be a health professional to qualify as a Medicare Champion.

“Nominations will be open to individual health professionals, practices or health centres and multi-disciplinary teams working across the full range of primary care services,” the announcement says.

“They can also extend to the many hard-working people who do not have professional qualifications in healthcare, but work for primary care services to help patients access the care they need, when and where they need it. 

“Anyone can nominate an individual, team or practice [for] their contribution to patient care, innovation, multidisciplinary care or work with diverse communities or vulnerable patients.”

Who will you nominate?

Maybe it’s the GPs who see the bulk of mental health patients at a scandalously lower Medicare rate than psychiatrists or those who stick to simple, quick appointments.

Maybe it’s the GP supervisors who train registrars for free because whoops, Medicare left that bit out.

Maybe the IMGs who work where no one else wants to after an epic quest to be allowed to do their job despite our desperate need for them.

Or maybe your hardworking practice manager or receptionist who deals with the angry patients you can no longer afford to bulk bill.

The committee may have more nominations than they bargained for.

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