Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Calls for improvements to Medicare Provider Number processing -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: More than 100 trainee doctors have been left without Medicare provider numbers because of a paperwork backlog.

It means their patients are unable to claim Medicare rebates.

In some cases, the GP registrars are not even allowed to see patients, and that's putting their training in jeopardy.

Penny Timms reports.

PENNY TIMMS: If you're a doctor or trainee doctor who wants to be a general practitioner in Australia, a Medicare provider number is close to a necessity.

FRANK JONES: Provider number is a number that's allocated to a general practitioner to provide services that is rebatable by Medicare.

So, you have to have a provider number if you are going to see patients in general practice, so that your patients can receive the rebate from Medicare or the Government.

PENNY TIMMS: Dr Frank Jones is the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

He says more than 100 GP registrars in one state alone have been left without a number because of a backlog in government processing.

FRANK JONES: There were more than 100 registrars in South Australia, for example, who started in January on their training program and did not have provider numbers, especially in areas where there are some new regional training organisations.

PENNY TIMMS: It's being caused by teething problems from changes to geographical boundaries for training facilities.

FRANK JONES: We've always called for streamlining but it's been precipitated recently because there have been changes to the geographical boundaries of where general practices are trained.

So, there's been a changeover in, if you like, the ownership within particular regions of Australia, and that has caused some angst.

PENNY TIMMS: The problem is mostly affecting student doctors who are training to be a GP, or those coming to Australia from overseas.

Dr Jones says the flow-on effects can be significant.

FRANK JONES: There may be some consequences for that registrar's training, the recognition of training if they're not actually seeing patients, and being reimbursed, then there's implications for their training.

There's certainly an implication for the individual doctor from an income point of view, there's an issue for the actual practice who is actually looking at teaching that registrar in that they decrease income.

But more important than any of that is that your patient, if you come to see me and I don't have a provider number, and I charge you 'X' for a fee for a service and you go to Medicare, Medicare will say 'well, that doctor hasn't actually got a provider number', you're going to have to pay the whole wack.

PENNY TIMMS: In 2010, the Federal Health Department commissioned an independent review of the Medicare provider number legislation.

It found inefficiencies in the processing of the numbers and recommended several changes to cut red tape.

Doctors say improvements have been made since then, but not to the level that's needed.

MARK COLVIN: Penny Timms.

In a written response, the Department of Human Services, which of course has been left without a minister today, says December to March is a typically busy time with increased demand for Medicare provider numbers and it is currently working to process applications within 19 working days.

It also says it is contacting health professionals by phone once their provider number is processed.