Plans to cut Medicare rebate for after-hours doctor service

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to remove the Medicare rebate for the National Home Doctor Service would impact at least 35,500 people on the Gold Coast, according to the service’s Chief Medical Officer.

A decade after John Howard introduced after-hours doctor home visits to Medicare, the service is now being put under threat with calls for the Medicare rebate to be removed in the government’s current Medicare Benefit Schedule review.

More than 35,000 people in the federal electorate of Moncrieff – which includes Ashmore, Benowa, Bundall, Broadbeach, Carrara, Main Beach, Mermaid Beach, Surfers Paradise and parts of Miami, Nerang, Southport and Worongary – relied on the service in the past financial year.


Chief Medical Officer of the National Home Doctor Service Dr Umberto Russo said the after-hours doctor service was an essential Medicare service.

“Doctor home visits are an essential Medicare service which are vital for the most vulnerable people in our community, such as children and the elderly,” Dr Russo said.

“In the federal electorate of Moncrieff, 41 percent of home visit patients were children aged under 15 years.

“Children and elderly family members can fall sick at any time of the day or night – not just in business hours when GP clinics are open.

“If home visits weren’t available, more families would go to emergency departments for health problems that are not emergencies but cannot wait for treatment until business hours.

“The cost to the health system of a doctor home visit is $128, while the cost to the health system of patients being treated in an emergency department is $368 on average, and much more when an ambulance is called.

“A report by Deloitte Access Economics found that without access to after-hours doctor home visits to households and aged-care facilities, the cost to the health system would be $724 million higher of the four years of the budget forward estimates.

“Home visits help families when they need it most and keep emergency departments for emergencies, saving the health system money,” Dr Russo said.

The National Association of Medical Deputising Services, which represents home doctors, has started a campaign called Protect Home Visits.

Almost 40,000 people have joined the campaign to show their support for the essential service.