Proposal to deny self-referrers Medicare

DOCTORS’ health experts have dismissed suggestions that blocking access to Medicare rebates for doctors who refer themselves for investigations and specialist consults would encourage them to visit their own GP instead.

Writing in the MJA, retired gastroenterologist Dr Kerry Breen, who helped establish the Victorian Doctors Health Program, argued that denying doctors rebates in these circumstances could deter them from self-referring.

He noted that estimates indicated that during their career up to 15% of doctors would become ill in ways that led to impairment, such as mental illness and drug dependency. Despite the high numbers, many did not seek help and were picked up in the later stages of their impairment.

Dr Breen noted mandatory reporting laws introduced as part of the national registration and accreditation scheme would not help, and that impaired doctors may avoid seeking help from other health professionals for fear they would be