Decision Maker Response

Chris Bowen’s response

Feb 18, 2020 — Thanks to everyone who has signed this petition. The Labor Party is taking this issue very seriously.

Labor created Medicare, and we will always defend it. GPs who are helping people with mental health issues at the same time as a physical issue should not be penalised or reprimanded.

I have written to Minister Greg Hunt outlining Labor’s position, which can be found below.

Chris Bowen MP
Shadow Minister for Health


Dear Minister,

I write regarding your Department's recent letter to some GPs who co-claim MBS Professional Attendance items with GP Mental Health Treatment items.

Labor created Medicare, and we have supported previous efforts to ensure that its integrity is not undermined by the very small number of providers who bill inappropriately.

However, I am concerned that this intervention has confused many GPs, and risks undermining our shared vision of comprehensive GP care.

While the letter was sent to a relatively small number of GPs, you would be aware that many more have been alarmed by its apparent implications. Indeed, the President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has described the letter as "an intimidating and heavy-handed tactic designed to pick on a small group to affect the whole group”.

I note that your Department has apologised for the “anxiety and distress” caused by similar letters in the past.

| also note that these letters are under review by the Australian National Audit Office, with a report due in May.

In response to the letter, GPs have highlighted a range of common situations where providing integrated physical and mental health care is entirely appropriate - and indeed, to be encouraged.

I therefore urge you to clarify your Government's policy on this matter, and to assure the vast majority of GPs who bill appropriately that they will not be subject to similar interventions in the future.

Yours sincerely,
The Hon. Chris Bowen MP
Shadow Minister for Health Federal Member for McMahon
17 February 2020

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