Rorts smear could see GPs quit in droves

4 minute read

But support is rolling in from some surprising quarters, such as former PSR director Professor Julie Quinlivan.

Cairns generalist Dr Minh Le Cong says he has received messages from well over 100 colleagues considering abandoning general practice amid the “Medicare rorts” media spray.

The messages have come from doctors at all stages of their career – older GPs who are entering the latter part of their career through to junior doctors and even medical students.

“[There were] students saying, ‘well, I wasn’t sure about a career in general practice anyway, but this has kind of sealed the deal for me that I won’t be considering one’, which is, to me … a bit of a concern, because in my private practice up in Cairns it’s just harder and harder to find new doctors,” he told The Medical Republic.

Dr Le Cong said he had been somewhat surprised by the number of messages he had received, which were largely prompted by a series of articles published by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and on ABC’s 7.30 program.

The reporting centred on Dr Margaret Faux’s* PhD thesis and the associated claim that $8 billion was leaking from Medicare each year through illegal or inappropriate health practitioner billing, low-value care and fraud.

It’s worth noting that, in her first column for TMR about a year ago, Dr Faux said the growing problem with Medicare was “the antithesis of rorting and more nuanced than the media could understand”.

Both the RACGP and the AMA have taken issue with the “$8 billion” figure, which would represent almost a third of Medicare’s annual budget.

Dr Stephen Duckett, one of the country’s leading healthcare economists, told the college’s media arm that the figure seemed “implausible” and that he has seen “no evidence that the fraud is at that $8 billion level”.

Former PSR director Professor Julie Quinlivan told The Limbic there was “very strong evidence” against rampant fraud in Medicare given the numerous safeguards in place.

“To me, the best evidence that this is simply not true is that over a quarter of a million Australians consent to have their medical information used for audits,” Professor Quinlivan said.

“Those audits aren’t done by the people who bill, they are done by independent researchers.

“So if there was widespread fraud, it would have been detected by that process alone, let alone that private health insurers do it, the Commonwealth does it and that patients can see their own claims history.”

Professor Quinlivan has read through Dr Faux’s PhD thesis and research.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson, meanwhile, admitted during an interview on 7.30 that he had not yet reviewed the entire document.

“I think I’d actually rather focus on some solutions and moving forward rather than reading someone else’s PhD,” he told host Sarah Ferguson.

Dr Faux, for her part, has written in The Sydney Morning Herald that the vitriol directed her way has made her scared to leave her home.

“Having dedicated my life’s work to Medicare, and the principles of universal health coverage, there is no turning back,” she wrote.

“I will continue my research and do whatever I can to resuscitate the notion that health is a right not a privilege.

“That will include exposing unpalatable truths.”

*Dr Margaret Faux has been a regular contributor to The Medical Republic on the topics of Medicare complexity and PSR overreach. Dr Faux will write again next week to defend herself from the criticism she has received for her part in this week’s reporting, and by mutual agreement that will be Dr Faux’s last column for TMR for the foreseeable future.

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