MBS item reviews will claw back $600m to government


It’s taken three years and the creation of 70 clinical committees, but the MBS Review Taskforce is set to deliver more than half a billion dollars in savings to government from revisions and deletions of MBS items, a Senate Estimates committee has been told.

However the review process is running behind schedule and full implementation of MBS item changes in not likely to run its course until 2020, Department of Health bureaucrats told the Senate’s Community Affairs Legislation Committee on 24 October.

Under questioning from Senator Richard Di Natale, health department officials conceded that the MBS Review Taskforce process started in 2015 was unlikely to meet its original goal of completing all reviews by the end of 2018.

They said that 30-40 of the 70 clinical review committees set up to review 5700 MBS items had yet to report, and the implementation of their recommendations would be further delayed by the need for their reports to undergo consultation with medical colleges and stakeholder groups.

All MBS Taskforce reports are now expected to be delivered at an unspecified time in 2019, but the revisions to MBS items will likely extend into 2020.

The budgeted savings from the MBS revisions are $600 million in forward estimates, while at the same time MBS cost growth is projected to be $4.8 billion, officials told Senator Di Natale.

They said MBS spending is $24.73 billion in 2018/19 and growing at a rate of $800 million a year. Other high expenditure areas of health include the Private Health Insurance Rebate, which is currently $6.4 billion a year and growing by 2.5% annually.

Senator Di Natale contrasted this with meagre and shrinking funding for preventative health and chronic disease programs, which officials said is projected to decline from $399 million in 2018/19 to $383 million by 2021.

Health department officials also acknowledged that the government is yet to progress its obesity strategy and the department had done no scoping work on sugar-sweetened beverages tax or junk food advertising to children. It is still in the early stages of defining what a junk food was, one official said.

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