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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 1


Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 20 May 2009:

(1)   What genetic tests are funded, directly or indirectly, by the Commonwealth for the provision of health care in Australia.

(2)   For each test identified in (1) above:

(a)   what is the relevant disease, illness, or condition being tested;

(b)   what has been the total amount of Commonwealth expenditure to date to fund the test and can that amount be broken down into:

(i)   expenditure for 2008, and

(ii)   anticipated funding for 2009; and

(c)   does a patent application or patent apply to, or is associated with, that test; if so, can details be provided on that patent application or patent.

(3)   Can a list be provided identifying any documents which are in the possession of the department referring or relating to the impact that such genetic tests have on:

(a)   the provision and cost of health care in Australia;

(b)   the provision of training and accreditation for health care professions;

(c)   the progress in medical research; and

(d)   the health and wellbeing of the Australian people.

(4)   For each document identified in (3) above, can an accurate summary of its contents be provided.


Senator Ludwig (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   There are 16 genetic tests funded directly by the Department of Health and Ageing under the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS). Further information is available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/B1597A1010C947C3CA257599000203FB/$File/200905-Cat6.pdf (see Group P7 - Genetics) The Australian Government also indirectly contributes to other genetic tests and services which are funded by States and Territories through the National Healthcare Agreements (NHA). However, expenditure on genetic testing through NHAs is not identified separately so a specific breakdown cannot be provided. Genetic tests may also be funded through private health insurance. Private health insurance is indirectly funded by the Commonwealth Government through the private health insurance rebate. However, expenditure on genetic testing through private health insurance is not identified separately in the Private Health Insurance Administration Commission data collection, so a specific breakdown cannot be provided.

(2)   Commonwealth Expenditure on Genetic Testing under the MBS 2007-08: $20,538,574 (including safety net) 2008-09: $21,408,455 (projected benefits including safety net) Private health insurers may pay benefits for genetic tests as part of hospital treatment or general treatment. Where a person holds a policy covering hospital treatment for a genetic test for which a Medicare benefit is payable the private health insurer will have to pay at least 25% of the MBS fee, (or the balance payable after the first 75% is paid by Medicare if the charge is less than 100% of the schedule fee). Private health insurers can choose to pay benefits for genetic testing in respect of general treatment. However, benefits cannot be paid in respect of general treatment where the test is listed on the MBS. Further information regarding the relevant diseases, illnesses, conditions, or funding and any patents associated with genetic tests is not available in an aggregated format and its compilation would involve a significant diversion of resources, which I am not prepared to authorise.

(3)   The Department is unable to provide this level of detail as the considerable work involved would require a significant diversion of resources from other departmental operations which I am not prepared to authorise. Part 3 draws directly from the Terms of Reference for the Senate Inquiry into Gene Patenting. The Department’s submission to the Inquiry provides a summary of the key issues addressed in the Terms of Reference. It is available on the website of the Senate Community Affairs Committee at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/index.htm.

(4)   Refer to Part 3.