The majority of Australians enjoy good access to healthcare through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) which provides over 5,700 treatments or items for consumers by doctors and allied health professionals.
Unfortunately, the promise of universal health care for all Australians has gradually crumbled as we move further into the 21st century, with the growing burden of chronic disease eclipsing expectations of more positive health outcomes.
Affordability, accessibility and a range of other policy and structural barriers have all meant that access to many necessary treatments may no longer be available under the MBS for those who need it.
When we consider the 3.4 million people living with chronic pain, it is clear to see that the MBS in its current form does not support the realisation of an evidence-based, multidisciplinary, patient-centred approach within primary, secondary, or tertiary level healthcare settings.
Like all other chronic conditions, chronic pain is managed best within the community through a multidisciplinary model of care that considers the physical, social, psychological, and environmental factors that impact the individual’s experience of chronic pain. It’s for this reason people with multiple and complex chronic conditions require interdisciplinary care that is managed alongside specialised pain experts.
Despite the implied promise of accessible healthcare that the MBS promotes, many people with chronic pain cannot access the types of services they need to due to rising out of pocket costs, exorbitant gap fees and unacceptably long wait times for pain specialist clinics.
Last year’s Federal Budget saw $40 million in anticipated savings from cuts to MBS pain management item numbers which came into effect on 1 March this year.
While, this week’s Federal Budget saw the addition of items for the review and reprogramming of neurostimulators for chronic pain by video teleconference, the Government did not implement the substantial reforms needed for greater access to pain treatments as recommended by the MBS Review Taskforce
The Taskforce’s pain management clinical committee recommended funding for items for consumers with chronic pain that would provide better access to multidisciplinary pain management, allied health visits and group pain management programs.
While Painaustralia welcomes this week’s announcement, we urge the Government to fund the necessary MBS pain items for consumers to be able to access these vital treatments. They are particularly urgent given the introduction of the opioid regulatory reforms in June 2020 which has seen restricted access to pain relieving medication and a lack of alternative support and treatments.
Funding these items would be a step in the right direction to help address the need for better access to affordable and accessible pain treatments.
The Faculty of Pain Medicine has also called on the Government as part of its Ease the Pain campaign to fund the Taskforce recommended items under the MBS. Further information is available here.