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Hockey Medicare plans a cost-shifting fantasy - AMA.

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Australian Medical Association Limited ABN 37 008 426 793

42 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT 2600: PO Box 6090, Kingston ACT 2604 Telephone: (02) 6270 5400 Facsimile (02) 6270 5499 Website :


AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today that reported plans of Human Services Minister, Joe Hockey, to reform the Health Insurance Commission (HIC) and possibly forcing doctors onto online billing are a cost-shifting fantasy.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) today revealed Mr Hockey’s plans to save the Government $35 million by cutting jobs at the HIC and by making doctors and patients foot the bill for new technologies to equip the newly branded Medicare Australia.

Dr Haikerwal said the Minister’s plans are pure fantasy.

“Some of the claims made by Mr Hockey in the paper today are lacking an important ingredient - the facts,” Dr Hailerwal said.

“The Minister claims that the slow uptake of online billing is the fault of the doctors - wrong.

“More than 90 per cent of doctors are using electronic prescribing and communication systems because they work, they are affordable and they add value to medical practice by giving doctors more time to spend with their patients.

“The reason HIC Online is not being taken up by the medical profession is because it is a lemon - it is flawed, faulty and currently offers no significant benefits to doctors and their patients.

“While there are some incentives for doctors to use HIC Online, the significant costs involved aren’t justified given the failures in the system.

“The AMA is a strong believer in e-health and the benefits that can flow to medical practice through quality and efficient new information technologies, but doctors are not prepared to surrender valuable patient time and more money to invest in a costly dodgy exercise.

“To even suggest that the Government would make it mandatory for doctors to sign up to HIC Online in its current state is a disgrace. If it was so good, there would be no need for compulsion.

“It would be forcing doctors to offer an inferior service for which patients would have to pay more - and that is not a recipe for quality primary health care.

“Mr Hockey should consult the e-health experts at the AMA and across the medical profession before taking his half-baked proposals to Cabinet.

“If he proceeds with his current plan, the Minister will be launching the all-new Medicare Australia on a maiden voyage to rival the Titanic’s,” Dr Haikerwal said.

15 September 2005

CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761