What is the Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) and how does EMSN capping work?
Download PDF version of the factsheet (PDF 525 KB)
Download RTF version of the factsheet (RTF 210 KB)
The Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) provides an additional rebate for Australian families and singles who incur out-of-pocket costs for Medicare eligible out-of-hospital services. Once the relevant annual threshold of out-of-pocket costs has been met, Medicare will pay for 80 per cent of any future out-of-pocket costs for out-of-hospital Medicare services for the remainder of the calendar year. For some Medicare items, there is an upper limit on the amount of benefit that is paid through the EMSN.
There are two thresholds for the EMSN. These thresholds are indexed by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on 1 January each year. The 2013 annual EMSN thresholds are:
- $610.70 for Commonwealth concession cardholders, including those with a Pensioner Concession Card, a Health Care Card or a Commonwealth Seniors Card, and people who are eligible for Family Tax Benefits (Part A); and
$1,221.90 for all other singles and families.
How do I register for the EMSN?Couples and families should contact the Department of Human Services — Medicare to register their family members as part of a Medicare eligible family. Registering as a family allows eligible out-of-pocket costs for each individual family member to count toward the family’s EMSN threshold. Couples and families need to register even if all family members are listed on the Medicare card. Registration is only required once unless family members change, for example, if a dependent child is no longer studying or you have a newborn baby.
What are out-of-hospital services?Out-of-hospital services include GP and specialist attendances, services provided in private clinics and private emergency departments, and many pathology and diagnostic imaging services. However, many day surgery facilities are classified as hospitals in Australia. The distinction between in-hospital and out-of-hospital services is not always obvious. It is important that patients talk with their doctors regarding the classification and likely out-of-pocket costs for their medical treatment, including any rebates paid through Medicare.
What is the Original Medicare Safety Net?The Original Medicare Safety Net (OMSN) works in conjunction with the EMSN, and has not changed. Under the OMSN, once the annual threshold is reached Medicare benefits increase to 100 per cent of the schedule fee for all out of hospital services for the rest of the calendar year. Only the ‘gap amount’, that is the difference between the Medicare rebate and the Schedule fee, counts towards the OMSN threshold.
The OMSN threshold in 2013 is $421.70.
What services are not eligible for the EMSN?In-hospital services are not eligible for the EMSN. Where people receive their treatment in-hospital as a private patient they are eligible for a Medicare rebate equal to 75% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee. If they hold PHI, they may also receive a rebate from their PHI fund.
The EMSN provides an additional Medicare rebate for eligible out-of-hospital services. It is not available for services for which a Medicare rebate is not paid and out-of-pocket costs for these services do not count towards the annual EMSN threshold.
What are EMSN benefit caps?An EMSN benefit cap is an upper limit on the amount of benefit that can be paid through the EMSN for an MBS item, regardless of the fee charged by the doctor.
EMSN benefit caps have been in place since 1 January 2010 following the findings of an independent review, conducted by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE), which found that some specialist doctors were increasing their fees knowing their patients would get 80 per cent of their out-of-pocket costs reimbursed through the EMSN.
The services that were capped on 1 January 2010 include: obstetric services and pregnancy related ultrasounds, assisted reproductive technology (ART) services, one item for cataract surgery, one item for varicose vein treatment and hair transplantation.
Since then, when some new services have commenced funding through the MBS, they have been introduced with an EMSN benefit cap following recommendations made by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) or for consistency with previously capped items.
All patients who have reached their EMSN threshold are eligible to receive an EMSN benefit up to the amount of the EMSN benefit cap each time that they claim for a capped service.
How are EMSN benefit caps calculated?For a capped item the method for determining the EMSN benefit is the same as an uncapped item — that is, 80 per cent of the patient’s out-of-pocket cost once the patient has reached the EMSN threshold. If the calculated benefit 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 per cent of the out-of-pocket costs for the claim).
Out-of-pocket cost is the difference between the fee charged by the doctor and the standard Medicare rebate received by the patient from Medicare before EMSN benefits are paid.
What items had EMSN caps prior to 1 November 2012?All assisted reproductive technology (ART) services, obstetric services, including pregnancy ultrasounds, midwifery services and the seven selected items listed below, had EMSN caps prior to 1 November 2012. From 1 November 2012, these items are capped based on a percentage of the MBS schedule fee.
2013 EMSN benefit cap ($)
|Injection of poly-L-lactic acid for the treatment of severe facial lipoatrophy (initial session)|
|Injection of poly-L-lactic acid for the treatment of severe facial lipoatrophy (subsequent sessions)|
|Varicose vein treatment via injection of sclerosant|
|Varicose vein treatment of one leg using endovenous laser therapy|
|Varicose vein treatment of one leg using endovenous laser therapy|
From 1 November 2012, EMSN benefit caps apply for all consultation items, 38 new procedural items and one ultrasound item. The new caps are calculated based on a percentage of the MBS fee. The MBS items that are capped from 1 November 2012 are available at the end of this fact sheet.
For consultation items the EMSN benefit cap is set at 300 per cent of the MBS fee, up to a maximum cap of $500. Therefore, if a consultation item has an MBS fee of $100, the EMSN benefit cap is $300. If the consultation item has an MBS fee of $200, the EMSN benefit cap is $500.
Note: All consultations, including GP, specialist, consultant physician and allied health, will have an EMSN cap.
For the other ‘non-consultation’ items that were capped on 1 November 2012, the EMSN benefit cap is equal to 80 per cent of the MBS fee. For these items there is no upper limit on the setting of the cap. Therefore if an item has an MBS fee of $800, the EMSN benefit cap is $640.
The level of the EMSN benefit caps will increase in line with the MBS fees and rebates on November, rather than on 1 January of each year. This will ensure that a patient’s maximum Medicare benefit (ie. the base Medicare rebate plus their EMSN benefit) will not change more than once in a calendar year.
The following scenarios illustrate how the EMSN caps work. The scenarios assume that the patient has already reached their EMSN threshold and is therefore eligible to receive EMSN benefits.
|From 1 November 2012, item 104, an initial consultation with a specialist, has an MBS Fee of $85.55, an out of hospital MBS rebate of $72.75 and an EMSN benefit cap of $256.65.|
Example A: No impact to patients due to EMSN caps
If the specialist charges $140 for the consultation, the patient’s out-of-pocket cost before EMSN benefits are paid is $67.25 (doctor’s fee minus the MBS rebate received). Assuming the patient has reached the relevant EMSN threshold, the EMSN benefit for this consultation is calculated to be $53.80 (80 per cent of the patient’s out-of-pocket cost).
As the calculated EMSN benefit is below the EMSN benefit cap amount of $256.65 the patient will receive the full $53.80 in EMSN benefits. As a result, the total cost incurred by the patient is $13.45 and EMSN capping has no impact on the patient.
Example B: Impact to patients due to EMSN caps
If the specialist charges $500 for the consultation, the patient’s out-of-pocket cost before EMSN benefits are paid is $427.25 (doctor’s fee minus the MBS rebate received). Eighty per cent of the out-of-pocket cost would be equal to $341.80. This amount is higher than the EMSN benefit cap of $256.65, therefore, assuming the patient has reached the relevant EMSN threshold, the maximum EMSN benefit that the patient will receive is $256.65. The total MBS benefit for this consultation is calculated to be $329.40 (MBS rebate plus the EMSN benefit cap). As a result, the total cost incurred by the patient is $170.60. The effect of the specialist billing at this rate means that the EMSN benefit cap has impacted on the patient’s out of pocket cost.
Consultation Items that will have an EMSN cap from 1 November 2012
|MBS group||Name of group||Item numbers|
|Group A1||GP attendances||3 – 51|
|Group A2||Other non-referred attendances||52 – 96|
|Group A3||Specialist attendances||99 – 109|
|Group A4||Consultant physician attendances||110 – 133|
|Group A5||Prolonged attendances||160 – 164|
|Group A6||Group therapy||170 – 172|
|Group A7||Acupuncture||173 – 199|
|Group A8||Consultant psychiatrist||288 – 370|
|Group A9||Contact lenses – attendances||10801 – 10816|
|Group A11||Urgent attendance after hours||597 – 600|
|Group A12||Consultant occupational physician||385 – 389|
|Group A13||Public health physician||410 – 417|
|Group A14||Health assessments||701 – 715|
|Group A15||GP management plans, team care arrangements, multidisciplinary care plans||721 – 880|
|Group A17||Domiciliary and residential management reviews||900 – 903|
|Group A18||GP attendance associated with a PIP incentive payment||2497 – 2559|
|Group A19||Other non-referred attendances associated with a PIP incentive payment||2598 – 2677|
|Group A20||GP mental health treatment||2700 – 2727|
|Group A21||Emergency physician||501 – 536|
|Group A22||GP after hours attendances||5000 – 5067|
|Group A23||Other non-referred after hours attendances||5200 – 5267|
|Group A24||Pain and palliative medicine||2801 – 3093|
|Group A26||Neurosurgery attendances||6007 – 6016|
|Group A27||Pregnancy support counselling||4001|
|Group A28||Geriatric medicine||141 – 149|
|Group A29||Early intervention services for children with autism, pervasive developmental disorder or disability||135 – 139|
|Group A30||Medical practitioner telehealth attendances||2100 – 2220|
|Group T6||Anaesthetic consultations||17609 – 17690|
|Group M3||Allied health services||10950 – 10970|
|Group M6||Psychological therapy services||80000 – 80020|
|Group M7||Focussed psychological strategies (allied mental health)||80100 – 80170|
|Group M8||Pregnancy support counselling||81000 – 81010|
|Group M9||Allied health group services||81100 – 81125|
|Group M10||Autism, pervasive developmental disorder and disability services||82000 – 82035|
|Group M11||Allied health services for Indigenous Australians who have had a health check||81300 – 81360|
|Group M12||Services provided by a practice nurse or registered Aboriginal health worker on behalf of a medical practitioner||10983 – 10989, 10997|
|Group M13||Midwife telehealth services||82150-82152|
|Group M14||Nurse practitioners||82200 - 82225|
Procedural items and one ultrasound item that will have an EMSN cap from 1 November 2012
Description of Service
|11700||Electrocardiography, tracing and report.|
|14100||Laser photocoagulation for the treatment of vascular lesions|
|20142||Initiation of management of anaesthesia for lens surgery|
|30071||Diagnostic biopsy of skin or mucous membrane|
|31200||Removal of tumour, cyst, ulcer or scar by surgical excision|
|31205||Removal of tumour, cyst, ulcer or scar by surgical excision|
|31521||Total male mastectomy|
|31527||Subcutaneous male mastectomy|
|31560||Excision of accessory breast tissue|
|32501||Varicose vein treatment|
|32504||Varicose vein treatment|
|32507||Varicose vein treatment|
|34106||Ligation of artery or vein|
|35533||Vulvoplasty or labioplasty|
|37619||Reversal of male sterilisation – vasovasostomy or vasoepididymostomy|
|42590||Canthoplasty – eyelid surgery|
|42738||Injection of a therapeutic substance into the eye|
|42739||Injection of a therapeutic substance into the eye|
|42740||Injection of a therapeutic substance into the eye|
|45003||Single stage local myocutaneous flap repair to 1 defect, simple and small|
|45025||Carbon dioxide laser for scaring on face or neck|
|45026||Carbon dioxide laser for scaring on face or neck – more than 1 area|
|45200||Single stage local flap, where indicated, to repair 1 defect, simple or small,|
|45203||Single stage local flap, where indicated, to repair 1 defect, complicated or large,|
|45206||Single stage local flap, where indicated, to repair 1 defect, on eyelid, nose, lip, ear, neck, hand, thumb, finger or genitals|
|45545||Reconstruction of nipple areola or both|
|45587||Meloplasty for correction of facial asymmetry due to soft tissue abnormality|
|45614||Whole thickness reconstruction of eyelid other than by direct suture|
|45617||Upper eyelid reduction|
|45620||Lower eyelid reduction|
|45623||Ptosis of eyelid (unilateral), correction of|
|45624||Ptosis of eyelid, correction of, where previous ptosis surgery has been performed|
|45632||Rhinoplasty, correction of lateral or alar cartilages|
|45635||Rhinoplasty, correction of bony vault only|
|45652||Rhinophyma, carbon dioxide laser or erbium laser excision-ablation of|
|45659||Correction of lop ear, bat ear or similar deformity|
|55054||Ultrasonic cross-sectional echography in conjunction with a surgical procedure using interventional techniques|