Announced by the Rudd Government last December, the much anticipated changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) are to be in operation by May 1 2010. The changes are aimed at simplifying the schedule by removing red tape and encouraging preventative care.

It is hoped that both patients and doctors will benefit from the promised 15 changes to the MBS. The changes have been drafted in consultation with consumers, doctors and other health care providers in order to develop reforms that would provide the best results for patients and benefit GPs.

Doctors concerns that the current MBS is too complex and fails to encourage preventative care have been looked at; under the new changes there will be clearer Medicare item descriptors and patients will be able to access longer consultations that will pay a higher fee of $66.45. The extra costs associated with higher rebates are hoped to be offset by the savings in the simplification process.

Changes to the MBS include item numbers being reduced by merging similar items, with the number of items in the relevant parts of the schedule reduced from 85 to 33. The explanatory notes will be clearer and cut in length by more than 40 per cent and after hours items will be simpler.

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