Medicare rebate a real pain for those suffering

HEALTH experts are calling on the Federal Government to give thousands of Australians suffering chronic pain better access to medical imaging such as X-rays and CT scans.

Wide Bay Medicare Local GP Shaun Rudd said the main reason for this lack of access was the Medicare rebates for medical imaging had not been indexed for years, so the gap had widened.

"For people who need ongoing treatments this can be particularly expensive," he said. "I think patients as a whole need to talk to their insurer - which is the Commonwealth Government - to get their rebates increased."

Medical imaging is widely used to assess patients who suffer from localised or systemic pain to diagnose, treat and monitor the underlying cause of pain.

Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association president Sue Ulreich said many people who were living with daily, ongoing pain could not afford the imaging their doctors needed.

"And this isn't just a few people," she said. "Pain is the third most common cause for people seeking medical imaging."

Dr Ulreich said she was baffled by the Medicare rebate system.

"It is bizarre to think that acupuncture is indexed, IVF is indexed, podiatry is indexed but diagnostic imaging - which is absolutely central to health care - is not," she said. "Patients have a right to get early and accurate diagnosis to treat and manage pain, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic background."

Dr Ulreich said while many practices bulk-billed or provided some form of subsidy, it was not enough.

"Many imaging services cannot be bulk-billed under Medicare, and the cost of providing quality imaging services is much higher than the Medicare fee," she said.

"We want to work with the Commonwealth Government to develop a sustainable solution that will improve Medicare rebates for patients experiencing pain."

Topics:  chronic pain health medicare

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