The Economics Advisory Committee (EAC) is responsible for overseeing issues of economic importance to the profession as well as assisting members in the economic and industrial aspects of practice.
Some key areas include:
The ASA, via the EAC, has continued to provide input into DoHA policy formulation, via regular submissions and face-to-face meetings.
The EAC has, over the course of many years, been able to achieve numerous improvements to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), as surgical and anaesthesia practices have developed and changed. This has benefitted both anaesthetists and the patients for whom we provide care.
The economic and political climate of recent years has made our job increasingly difficult, but at the same time, increasingly important. There has been a definite and significant healthcare cost-cutting agenda put in place by the Federal Government, with economic considerations of specific services often outweighing the importance of the clinical benefits to patients. The removal of MBS benefits for the use of ultrasound in the practice of anaesthesia is an obvious case in point. In order for this and any other ‘new’ services to gain MBS recognition, a detailed and prolonged application process to the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) of DoHA must be pursued. Additionally, MSAC has been given the task of assessing existing MBS items, to ensure they represent both quality care, and wise expenditure of public funds. Again, costs seem to override clinical considerations, and it is essential that expert bodies such as the ASA are intimately involved in these government initiatives. Otherwise Australian patients risk having their funding for quality health care substantially cut.
The Medicare National Compliance Programme is a separate but related initiative. Doctors who appear to be ‘outliers’ for the use of MBS items such as emergency after-hours modifiers and anaesthesia time items continue to be targeted, despite that fact that the vast majority of these claim patterns are shown to be perfectly appropriate. ASA members are strongly advised to contact the ASA should they become the target of an audit.
The EAC encourages input from all members and is happy to receive any queries on these or any other matters. Suggestions for improvements to the RVG, particularly for newer services not currently covered by existing items, are always welcomed. Details of the activities of the EAC are reported regularly in the monthly President’s e-news and the ASA publication Australian Anaesthetist. All members should feel free to contact the EAC and seek assistance as and when the need arises.