Most Australians enjoy good access to healthcare through our Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS). The universal health care promise that the MBS has afforded to generations of Australians has ensured that we have led the world in prioritising healthcare as a fundamental and integral part of the social fabric.
In its current form, the MBS does not support the realisation of a multidisciplinary, patient-centred approach in primary, secondary, or tertiary healthcare settings. This approach continues to be endorsed by the pain sector and is articulated in the National Pain Strategy (the Strategy) which provides a blueprint for the treatment and management of acute, chronic and cancer pain. The growing evidence base continues to support the Strategy as best practice. As noted in the draft recommendations, as the speciality area of pain management matures, it is clear that the structures that support it must also mature. This includes the MBS.
In the Budget papers from May this year, the MBS Review implementation dates for the pain management item numbers was given as March 2022. Anticipated savings of $40 million over three years were also announced. No further information has been forthcoming about what this means, in particular whether any of the above issues are going to be addressed.
After a five-year Medicare Review, on 21 May 2021 an announcement was made by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, that some items would be adjusted to reflect the removal of low value care. Many of the Pain Management Committee recommendations, specifically recommendations 26 and 27 remain unaddressed. These areas relate to access to multidisciplinary pain management, allied health visits and group pain management programs. These recommendations will be considered at an unspecified future time as part of ‘broader primary care reform’.
Painaustralia will continue to advocate for the required changes to be implemented to allow a more effective way to access multidisciplinary approach to managing chronic pain.