Telehealth cut as PHI targeted in mid-year budget

The private health insurance rebate, which was already means tested in the last budget, will now be reduced, Treasurer Wayne Swan said today as he blamed global economic conditions for across the board spending cuts in his Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) statement.

After years encouraging GPs and patients to use telehealth, budget papers said the government would “restrict telehealth services to those patients for whom distance is the most significant barrier to accessing specialist care” to save $134.4 million over four years.

That would mean that from next year, patients would only qualify for the telehealth Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebate if they were located in an eligible Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Area.

“Geographic eligibility criteria for MBS telehealth services will be amended to exclude patients in outer metropolitan areas and major cities of Australia in accordance with