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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4273

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health) (09:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill reduces the regulatory burden on the pathology sector without increasing the overall taxation burden. It amends the Health Insurance (Approved Pathology Specimen Collection Centres) Tax Act 2000 (the pathology tax act) to require the tax payable on the grant of an approval of an approved specimen collection centre (ACC) to be paid every two years.

The pathology tax act imposes a tax on the grant of an approval, or renewal, of a pathology specimen collection centre. Medicare benefits can be claimed for pathology services provided using specimens collected at an ACC.

The pathology tax act currently imposes a tax of $1,000 for an approval of renewal of an ACC granted for a period of one year. Under the current existing arrangements, existing ACCs must renew their registration and pay this tax every 12 months. As an interim measure, in 2016, the government agreed that all new ACCs may only be initially registered for a period of six months, with a $500 tax imposed. These ACCs can then be renewed annually. This requires pathology providers to complete application forms and pay the associated tax twice within a six-month period. The interim arrangements were put in place with support from the pathology sector pending the development of the suite of measures to strengthen compliance arrangements.

This bill will, therefore, allow approvals to be granted for a two-year period and will see no increase to the tax imposed. In essence, instead of a $1,000 one-year process, it will become a $2,000 two-year process. This bill will, therefore, amend the existing pathology tax act to require the tax payable on the grant of an approval of an ACC to be amended from $1,000 annually to $2,000, to be paid two-yearly. This will assist in addressing regulatory burden by streamlining administrative processes that the pathology sector encounter with the current arrangements. The rate of the tax has not been changed since the act was enacted in 1999. After careful consideration the government has determined that there should be no increase to the tax at this time to ensure that smaller pathology providers are not negatively impacted.

The department has been, and will continue to engage with key stakeholders prior to 1 July 2018 to advise of the amendment to the tax and the extension of the timeframe for new and renewed ACC applications, including reaffirming the key elements of the measure announced in the 2017-18 budget.

The Health Insurance (Eligible Collection Centres) Approval Principles 2010 (the approval principles) set out the terms for approvals of ACCs. Currently ACC approvals are required by the approval principles to be renewed every 12 months. It is intended that the approval principles will be amended to extend ACC approval periods to two years to reflect amendments to the Pathology Tax Act.

These changes will be welcomed by the pathology sector as it decreases the effort currently involved in annual ACC renewal.

These amendments contribute to the implementation of the 2017-18 budget measure 'Pathology Approved Collection Centres—strengthening compliance', which includes new compliance arrangements, strengthening compliance activities related to prohibited practices by increased data collection and analysis; automation of applications, cancellations and renewals through the Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) of the Department of Human Services. These amendments further complement these compliance activities by extending and streamlining ACC approval periods from one to two years, with the tax adjusted from $1,000 each year to $2,000 every two years.

In summary, this bill will reduce the regulatory burden of pathology providers and will not negatively impact smaller pathology providers as there is no increase to the financial component. The tax will be paid two yearly instead of annually.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.