Date published: 
17 March 2019
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Look, it’s fantastic to be here at Healthcare Imaging Services at Holmesglen Private Hospital. We’re bringing together two wonderful institutions on what is a very important day for healthcare. We can sum it up in a simple way. I had the privilege of meeting Jade and Matt. Jade was having her ultrasound. She was delighted to declare two things.

Firstly, that they’re having a girl. Secondly, that this little girl looks to be very, very healthy at 17 weeks. And we know this because Kleana, our magnificent sonographer under the guidance of Rohan, our radiologist, was able to say: this baby looks healthy because this ultrasound allows us with the amazing technology to determine that fact.

And I’m privileged to be here with Siavash, who’s head of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association, Dean, who’s here as head of Helius, and their work in radiology around Australia. And today’s a very important day because we’re announcing two things. Firstly, the Australian Government will inject $200 million into indexation of the cost of ultrasound and X-ray. That means that patients will have reduced out-of-pockets and increased access, whether it’s for ultrasound, for pregnancy for cardiology examinations, whether it’s X-ray which could be for children that have had their injuries, it could be for people that have had a broken hip – an older Australian. It could be for netballers or footballers that have fractured a finger.

All of these things are going to benefit. So we know that over 200 Medicare items will be advanced, and because of that, a $200 million injection – the first indexation in over 20 years – will mean that patient costs will be impacted in a very positive way. It will be cheaper will less out-of-pockets for patients to get the ultrasound they need, to get the X-ray they need.

In addition to that, I’m delighted to be joined by Tim Wilson, because there will be a range of new Medicare bulk billing licences for MRIs in Victoria. Around Australia, there will be- $385 million worth of new MRI licences issued. What that means is that patients will be able to get their MRI for free. So here, at Healthcare Imaging Services in Moorabbin, patients will be able to get the MRI on this magnificent new Three-Tesla machine for free.

And that could be for the brain, that could be for the heart, it could be for cancer or it could be for the back, the hips or the knees.

These licences will include nine new licences that we’re announcing today in Victoria, Holmesglen, Cabrini, Brighton in Tim’s electorate, the magnificent Royal Women’s Hospital, amongst others, the Olympic Park Imaging, and also the Northern Hospital at Epping, amongst others.

So, we’re helping with ultrasound, we’re helping with X-ray, we’re helping with new MRIs which will allow for patients to get their MRI work done for free. It’s part of a much broader plan. Firstly, we added funds for mammography, fluoroscopy, CT and interventional scans. Secondly, we are adding the new MRIs – 50 around Australia. Thirdly, we are able to add the ultrasound and X-ray to indexation. And then, finally, we’ve been able to bring on new procedures such as 3D mammography being covered for free under Medicare on the Medicare schedule, or prostate MRIs for men. So, all of those things have meant more scans more freely available for more people, and that’s about saving lives and protecting lives.

SIAVASH ES'HAGHI:

Thank you, Minister. This is great news for 9 million who require imaging, X-ray and ultrasounds every year, and this measure will impact significantly in improving accessibility and availability for many X-rays and ultrasounds, including the pregnancy ultrasound, musculoskeletal ultrasound and so on. We are very thankful to Minister Hunt and the Government – that after 20 years of frozen indexation they have been able to recognise the significance of this matter and have been able to announce and bring this measure for the Australian people and the benefit for all Australian patients that will benefit from this measure.

We believe that this is the right thing to do and we certainly think that it will have a positive impact in patient health outcome and it will increase the accessibility and availability of services right across the country for all Australians. So, thank you.

GREG HUNT:

Okay. Tim, your residents will benefit from the new MRI here and at Cabrini, Brighton.

TIM WILSON:

Thank you, Minister. It’s wonderful to be here as part of this critical announcement for the thousands of Australians who, every year, need assistance and support through scans. More critically, it’s the opportunity to have these important scans in your own community where the people are affected. The announcement of an MRI facility, MRI licence at Cabrini, Brighton is the first time that there will be MRI services provided for by Medicare in the Bayside community. And of course, having similar services out wide in the Kingston community as well will make a huge difference for local residents across the Southeast part of Melbourne.

But all of these measures, all of these measures around free and accessible scans under the Medicare system can only be delivered because this Government has prioritised making sure we have a strong economy and giving that health and social dividend. This Government has focused at every point in making sure we provide the essential services that Australians need and these scans are a critical part of delivery for the Australian community, the Goldstein community and the Southeast of Melbourne.

GREG HUNT:

Great. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, there’s been talk about the 20 years of the freeze in the indexation. Why has it taken so long to get to this point?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I can’t speak for the past - I can say on our watch, in our time, because we’ve got a strong economy we’re able to deliver these health dividends. We know that when Mr Shorten was the assistant treasurer he stopped listing new medicines.

It was officially in the budget that, due to fiscal constraints, the government would stop listing new medicines until such time as the fiscal constraints changed. That’s not the case with us. We’re listing every new medicine which the experts recommend and we’re able to make these new scans – X-ray and ultrasound and MRI – available around the country because, precisely as Tim says, we do have the strong economy. So, we’re doing what nobodies done for 20 years.

JOURNALIST:

But you have been in Government for some time. You could have done something before now. It’s not just back, you know, years before in Labor.

GREG HUNT:

I think what you’ll see is that, as I’ve said, we’ve listed new types of procedures, whether it’s 3D mammograms of MRI prostate scans for men; we’ve created 50 new MRI bulk billing licences but we’ve also already announced the indexation of mammography, fluoroscopy, CT interventional scans. Now what we’re doing is adding ultrasound and X-rays. So, these are the progressive dividends of bringing the budget back to surplus. And you only do that if you can create the strong economy, and it’s the Australian people that have helped create the jobs. Our job has been to help them create the jobs and therefor to generate the national wealth, which we can then invest in these health services.

JOURNALIST:

When will this funding, this measure, come into effect?

GREG HUNT:

So the MRI licences will come into effect immediately, and it will simply be a matter of Dean working with the Department of Health to make sure that they’re available and the indexation will be part of a broader package from 1 July 2020.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Hunt, where is this money coming from? Is it new money?

GREG HUNT:

This is entirely new money that will be provided for in the budget because of the health of the budget.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, just on matters that happened yesterday with Senator Fraser Anning, what are your thoughts on what happened? A teenager did egg him and then he reacted. What are your thoughts on what happened there?

GREG HUNT:

These were despicable comments about a despicable act I want to condemn clearly, absolutely and unequivocally – as the Parliament, I believe, will also do – Senator Anning’s comments. Now, in terms of the incident between Senator Anning and the youth: both of them did the wrong thing.

JOURNALIST:

And do you think Senator Anning deserves his seat in Parliament?

GREG HUNT:

Well that will be a matter for the Australian people. But my belief and my expectation is that Senator Anning should and will be censured by both houses of the Australian Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Back to the scans, how much will a person actually save on, say, an X-ray?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I’ll give you an example here, in terms of the MRI. The savings for the individual will be up to $400 by being bulk billed. In terms of the savings for the particular scans – that will depend on the circumstances around the country, but it’s a $200 million injection and those outcomes will vary from site to site, but the very specific example, which Dean’s team was able to provide me today, is that MRIs here will be up to $400 cheaper for patients.

JOURNALIST:

What services will be covered now with this scheme that weren’t previously covered?

GREG HUNT:

So, what we’ve got is changes to mammography and fluoroscopy, CT and interventional scans, ultrasound and X-ray, over 200 new scans will be covered as a result of today’s announcement.

JOURNALIST:

And to clarify, will there be any out-of-pocket costs for patients?

GREG HUNT:

It will depend on the particular facility, but what this will do is reduce the out-of-pockets, and in the case of the MRIs, they will all be bulk billed, which means a cost which might otherwise have been up to $400 will now be zero. Alright, thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you, Minister.