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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1100

(Question No. 5)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 21 February 1985:

Are there long delays in the payment of practitioners, such as doctors and pharmacists by the Department of Social Security, if so:

(a) why are these delays occurring; and

(b) what efforts are being made to minimise these delays, in view of the hardship they cause.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The majority of practitioners's accounts are paid by the Department of Social Security within one month and most are cleared within two months of falling due. In about ten per cent of cases longer delays occur and these are due mainly to problems associated with the particular claim.

It should be noted, however, that the procedures in force for remuneration of doctors appointed as Commonwealth Medical Officers, and who undertake medical examinations in connection with invalid pension eligibility, do not require the doctor to render an account for each examination. Under the procedures Commonwealth Medical Officers are reimbursed on a quarterly basis. This means that on average payment is made some three months after the service has been rendered.

The Department has no evidence of hardship being caused to practitioners generally by reason of delay in payment of claims. The total amount of all expenditure for medical and pharmaceutical services is approximately $3m per annum and its delayed accounts would comprise a negligible proportion of the total paid by the Commonwealth Government for such services. Nevertheless, the Department of Social Security is conscious of the need to pay accounts for services and supplies promptly and work is currently being undertaken on an improved accounts payments system which will automate processing currently carried out manually and, when implemented, will reduce the time taken to pay accounts.