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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19304

Mrs Irwin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 27 May:

(1) Is the Minister aware of the practice of Medicare providers waiving the payment of an amount above the scheduled fee if an account is paid in less than 30 days.

(2) Why are cheques made out to providers not issued for at least 16 days after a claim is made.

(3) Why are cheques posted to claimants posted at off peak rates.

(4) What assistance does Medicare provide to claimants faced with additional costs for treatment due to delays in issuing and posting cheques.

Mr Andrews (Minister for Ageing) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) I am aware of this practice; it is a business decision made by the individual practitioner, and is a matter between the patient and the provider.

(2) Cheques made out to providers are not issued for at least 16 days after a claim is made. The Government has placed a requirement on the Health Insurance Commission (HIC) not to release a Medicare benefit cheque for a specified period of time, (16 days), after the date the claim is received (commonly referred to as the minimum payment time). Minimum payment times are reviewed annually. These have remained unchanged since 1 August 2001.

(3) The HIC appends Australia Posts Delivery Point IDentifier (DPID) barcode to Medicare cheques to maximise postal discounts. The DPID is the barcode seen above the address on most bank statements and utility bills. Each barcode represents a delivery point in Australia, about 10 million in all. It allows Australia Post to mechanically sort mail, thus reducing costs. These savings are passed onto bulk mail generators such as the HIC. Postal discounts are further enhanced by off-peak delivery. HIC considers this to be appropriate management of its financial resources, as the mail generated by the Medicare program is substantial.

(4) Medicare is not able to offer further assistance to claimants faced with additional costs for treatment as a result of amounts not being paid within the timeframe specified by their provider. These additional expenses are a matter between the patient and the doctor.