Extended Medicare Safety Net

The Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) provides an additional rebate for Australian families and singles who have out-of-pocket costs for Medicare eligible out-of-hospital services once an annual threshold in out-of-pocket costs has been met. Out-of-pocket costs is the difference between the doctors charge and the Medicare rebate for a service.

Page last updated: 11 September 2014

Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN)

Simplifying Medicare Safety Net arrangements

As announced in the 2014-15 Budget Measure the Government will be introducing a new Medicare Safety Net to assist people with out-of-pocket costs for their out-of-hospital Medicare services. From 1 January 2016, the existing Original Medicare Safety Net, Extended Medicare Safety Net and Greatest Permissible Gap will be replaced by the new Medicare Safety Net (subject to the passage of legislation). The existing Medicare safety net arrangements will continue until the end of 2015. Further information relating to the new arrangements can be found in the Links section below.

Extended Medicare Safety Net

Out-of-hospital services include GP and specialist attendances, as well as many pathology and diagnostic imaging services. Once the relevant annual threshold has been met, Medicare will pay for 80 per cent of any future out-of-pocket costs for Medicare eligible out-of-hospital services for the remainder of the calendar year, except for a small number of services where an upper limit or ‘EMSN benefit cap’ applies.

The EMSN thresholds are indexed by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on 1 January each year.

In 2014 annual EMSN thresholds are:
  • $624.10 for Commonwealth concession cardholders, including those with a Pensioner Concession Card, a Health Care Card or a Commonwealth Seniors Card, and people who receive Family Tax Benefit (Part A); and
  • $1,248.70 for all other singles and families.
On 1 January 2015 the annual EMSN thresholds are:
  • or Commonwealth concession cardholders, including those with a Pensioner Concession Card, a Health Care Card or a Commonwealth Seniors Card, and people who receive Family Tax Benefits (Part A) will be indexed by the CPI; and will be
  • $2,000 for all other families and singles as announced in the 2013-14 Budget.
EMSN benefits are paid in addition to the standard Medicare rebate and any benefits received through the Original Medicare Safety Net (OMSN). Qualification to receive benefits through the OMSN differs to that of the EMSN. To receive OMSN benefits patients must accumulate a set amount of ‘gap expenses’ (generally defined as the difference between the out of hospital Medicare rebate (85 per cent of the Schedule fee) and the Schedule fee) and once qualified, patients receive 100 per cent of the schedule fee for out of hospital services for the remainder of the calendar year.

Further information relating to the OMSN can be found in the Links section below.

EMSN Capping

EMSN caps apply to more than 500 MBS items. The items capped include:
    - All consultations;
    - Obstetrics and assisted reproductive technology(ART) services; and
    - Some surgical procedures.
As a result of a 2009-10 Budget measure, EMSN caps were placed on obstetrics items, ART items and three selected procedures. Four items have since been introduced into the MBS with caps as a result of recommendations made by MSAC.

On 1 November 2012, EMSN caps were placed on all consultation items, one ultrasound item and 38 other procedural items. The changes have been made to support the long term sustainability of the EMSN.

The EMSN benefit for a capped item is calculated as 80% of the patient’s out-of-pocket cost once the patient has reached the EMSN threshold. If this amount is greater than the EMSN benefit cap, the patient receives the EMSN benefit cap amount. If the calculated benefit is less than the EMSN benefit cap, the patient receives the calculated benefit (which is equal to 80% of the out-of-pocket costs for the claim).

Further information on EMSN capping, including the full list of capped items can be found in the Links section below.

Review of EMSN Capping

In mid 2011, the then Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon tabled the ‘Review of Capping Arrangements Report 2011’ in both Houses of Parliament. The capping report is an independent review undertaken by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) who were engaged by the department to analyse:
  • the operation of capping EMSN benefits;
  • the extent to which the introduction of the EMSN benefits caps has made the EMSN more sustainable into the future; and
  • any changes to fees charged, services provided and patients out of pocket costs for the capped items since the introduction of the EMSN benefits caps.
A copy of the report can be found in the Links section below.

Links

  • Further information on the new Medicare Safety Net as announced in the 2014-15 Budget can be found at the MBS Online website.
  • Further information on the OMSN and the EMSN, including threshold eligibility and how to register as a family can be found on the Department of Human Services website.
  • Family Tax Benefit (Part A) and Commonwealth concession cards information and eligibility requirements can found on the Department of Human Services website.
  • Information on EMSN capping including the full list of capped items and examples of how EMSN benefits are calculated for a capped item can be found under the ‘fact sheets’ section at the MBS Online website.

Review Reports

  • Extended Medicare Safety Net Review Report 2009 completed by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation and tabled in Parliament on 12 May 2009 can be found on the Department of Health website
  • Review of Capping Arrangements Report 2011 completed by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation and tabled in Parliament can be found on the Department of Health website.