Anxiety around foreshadowed changes to MBS item numbers

Delegates at day one of the MOGA Annual Scientific Meeting were given a sneak peek at some of the recommendations from the Oncology Clinical Committee of the MBS Review Taskforce.

Taskforce chair Professor Bruce Robinson told the meeting the draft recommendations will be released for public consultation within the next two weeks.

While officially under wraps until then, he indicated there was the need for revision and restructuring in the majority of items. A couple of obsolete items have been recommended for removal.

Professor Robinson said a guiding principle behind the recommendations was to better reflect the modern role of the oncologist in supervising overall care – not just physical administration of therapies.

He also said the intent of current funding arrangements had become misconstrued.

“There was some confusion that appeared to have crept into the system…where it was believed by some people that chemotherapy MBS item numbers cover costs of nursing care as well.”

“It is quite clear that this was never the intent of these MBS item numbers and the ways in which private facilities recoup nursing costs is a private matter for them to determine.”

MOGA executive committee chair Associate Professor Chris Karapetis, said MOGA members were in agreement with the principle of the review.

“There are items numbers that are outdated and unnecessary. There are item numbers that we agree could be misused, so creating an MBS funding system that is contemporary is certainly worth pursuing.”

While the details have yet to be revealed, the session generated significant discussion about the ‘financial toxicity’ of cancer care, out-of-pocket costs for patients and private versus public health care.

“Oncologists want to ensure that best practice applies,” Associate Professor Karapetis said.

“However medical oncologists are concerned about the changes, and the potential for unintended consequences, in so far as they don’t know all the details yet.”

“They are concerned the changes could provide a disincentive for patients to receive their chemotherapy in private facilities and potentially place an additional burden on chemotherapy being administered in public hospitals.”

A number of delegates in the session said public hospitals were already at capacity.

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