Saturday, 9 January 2010

Changes to obstetric safety net are fair, despite foul cries – Croakey

Dr Hilary Joyce, President of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG), wants to work with the Federal Government early next year to find an alternative solution to lessen the financial impact on mothers-to-be. NASOG is concerned that pregnant women are in for a New Year shock as the Government's budget cuts to the antenatal safety net package takes affect. NASOG distributed a media release about their concerns.

Dr Sally K Tracy is Professor of Midwifery at the University of Sydney. Professor Tracy admits she has a vested interest. Her vested interest, as stated on the Crikey blog, is in encouraging the Commonwealth government to increase accessibility to midwifery care for all women; and fully supports the Commonwealth government’s initiatives under the maternity services reform package. A pretty good vested interest to have as the evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that childbearing women and their babies are safer with midwifery care.

Professor Tracy: "thought a little historical context might give readers a deeper understanding of the issues involved, and reassure women that the reform is aimed at creating a fairer system".

and explained

“The Medicare Safety Net was aimed at protecting all Australians from high out-of-pocket costs for medical services provided outside hospital.
In March 2004 the Howard Government changed the Medicare Safety Net to allow for an unlimited, non means tested increase in the supplement payable for Medicare benefits for these charges over and above a threshold set by the government each year.
The inherent risks in introducing an unlimited benefit were soon realised when it was discovered that the safety net was not necessarily benefiting those with a low to middle income or who were sickest in the community, despite the existence of a lower threshold making it easier for them to qualify.
The people who really benefited were the providers themselves. It was found that some doctors were cleverly taking advantage of the safety net to increase their fees with the knowledge that the majority of the cost would be refunded by the government. In 2008 this cost Medicare (and the taxpayer) the sum of $211.3 million.
In fact in the five years since the introduction of the new safety net, fees charged by private obstetricians for in-hospital services reduced by six per cent, whilst the fees charged for out of hospital expenses such as the ‘antenatal care package’ increased by 267 per cent".

Now, who is it that has vested self- interests? How interesting is it that the original intent of the safety net was to help the public, but the doctors found a loophole and benefited themselves to the tune of $211.3 million of tax payers money.
read more here

Changes to obstetric safety net are fair, despite foul cries – Croakey

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