GPs still funded to deliver important kids checks

Parents can still access a pre-school health check for their child through their local GP.

Page last updated: 19 May 2015

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19 May 2015

Parents can still access a pre-school health check for their child through their local GP.

This will still be funded through Medicare, and doctors will still be paid an incentive to bulk bill children as per current practice.

There will also be no restrictions placed on how long a visit can take, as is the case now.

Parents needing to access the pre-school health check for their child in order to access income support will still also be able to do so through a GP or the various state-based nurse infant and children checks, as is currently the case.

The only change in the Budget is to the Medicare items GPs can bill taxpayers and patients for undertaking the check.

Instead of GPs billing a special Medicare item worth hundreds of dollars per visit, they will instead be able to deliver the pre-school health check for three and four year olds through a standard GP item worth about half that.

For example, an in-depth kids’ check for a three or four year old that takes an hour or more costs $268.80 for one visit under the current system.

The same in-depth check for the same time delivered through a standard GP visit costs $105.55.

This is a sensible decision considering the annual cost of delivering pre-school health checks through current billing practices has skyrocketed 1000 per cent in seven years, despite take up of the checks by parents increasing at just a third of this rate.

As a result, currently only half of Australia’s 300,000-plus four year olds have accessed a pre-school health check at the more expensive billing rates.

There has also been a lack of evidence to show the current, more-expensive check item is superior to existing standard GP and state infant check services that were in place before Labor introduced the policy in 2008, in fact some experts have claimed the opposite.

    • “The Medicare patient rebate for the Check was also set without any consultation with the medical profession as to the necessary thoroughness and detail of the Check… As a result, many GPs prefer to see patients under a normal Medicare consultation item when they do a child health assessment, simply because there is less red tape involved and the assessment is based on best practice guidelines, not bureaucratic guidelines.” Link to AMA website.
I want to reassure parents that they can still access essential, Medicare-funded pre-school health checks for their children through their local GP or through a state nurse-run service. I also encourage parents to do so due to the important early intervention Australia’s highly-skilled GPs and nurses can provide our children.

Any savings from this measure will be reinvested back into health.

FACTS
    • In 2008-09 – 40,031 ‘Healthy Kids Check’ services were delivered by nurses and GPs at a cost to taxpayers of $1.8 million.
    • In 2013-14 – 153,725 ‘Healthy Kids Check’ services were delivered by nurses and GPs at a cost to taxpayers of $20 million.
    • This equates to a 385% increase in services delivered vs a 1094% increase in cost of the programme to taxpayers between 2008-09 and 2013-14.
    • It equates to just 50 per cent of the nation’s 304,000 four years under the current Medicare items.
    • This has also seen the average cost of Healthy Kids Checks rising from about $45 in the program’s first year (2008-09) to about $130 in 2013-14.
    • Similar dedicated checks for Indigenous children will remain unchanged.
EVIDENCE (evaluating Labor’s ‘Healthy Kids Check’)
    • “The incentives for parents approach has worked well to boost immunisation levels because of the strong evidence base,” Dr Pesce said. “However, the evidence to support the Healthy Kids Check, in its current form, is very poor.
    • “The Medicare patient rebate for the Check was also set without any consultation with the medical profession as to the necessary thoroughness and detail of the Check… As a result, many GPs prefer to see patients under a normal Medicare consultation item when they do a child health assessment, simply because there is less red tape involved and the assessment is based on best practice guidelines, not bureaucratic guidelines.” Link to AMA website.
    • “But there’s a problem – Healthy Kids’ Checks are not working. Only a fraction of four-year olds get this health check, and there is no evidence that those children who do get one benefit from it.” Link to Dr Lesley Russell Mental health provisions in the 2011-12 budget report website.
    • “Most of the components of the Healthy Kids Check are not supported by evidence-based guidelines relevant to primary care”. Link to Medical Journal of Australia website.

ENDS

Media Contact: Troy Bilsborough 0427 063 150

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