Patients’ group wants to school the public on Medicare

2 minute read

Most people don’t know what they don’t know about Medicare. The CHF wants funding for ‘community education sessions’.

Getting patients to understand how Medicare actually works is the novel, RACGP-backed suggestion provided by the Consumers Health Forum of Australia in its 2024 budget submission.

“People understand that [Medicare] can help them see a doctor for free and they love their little green card, but beyond that, the depth of knowledge about the system isn’t always deep,” CHF CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny told The Medical Republic.

The group is proposing a series of community education sessions titled ‘Understanding Medicare – understanding your health’ which would educate patients in outer urban areas on how the health system works and what services Medicare funds.

The CHF did not specify how much this would cost.

It specifically wants to target people on the outer edges of capital cities, having identified that group as particularly vulnerable to the rising cost of living pressures.

According to Dr Deveny, whose background is in primary and digital health leadership, many Australians do not understand what they are “entitled to” under Medicare.

“The universality of Medicare is under threat,” she said.

“CHF is concerned by some of the commentary that has emerged in the sector over the last few years, which is viewing Medicare as a safety net for the most disadvantaged, and not as a universal access scheme for all.”

The RACGP has publicly backed the plan, arguing that recent changes to the system – i.e. the introduction of new incentives which are dependent on a person enrolling themselves with a practice – have made it even more complex.

“Most politicians, decision makers and consumers have got very little health literacy or understanding around how Medicare works and what it does,” college president Dr Nicole Higgins told TMR.

“We want to work with CHF to explain that the Medicare rebate belongs to the patient.”

The other recommendations that CHF pitched as part of its pre-budget submission included a cool $8 million over four years to go toward training 100 new people to present the consumer voice in health and research bodies.

CHF would be the recipient of those funds.

It also recommended that funding be put toward improving the consumer voice in the TGA specifically, which it said was an especially complex area.

Pushing dental onto Medicare, expanding telehealth and bringing forward the next tranche of 60-day prescribing medicines all also made the cut.

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