Thursday, 3 September 2020
Health Insurance Amendment (Administration) Bill 2020; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill amends the Health Insurance Act 1973 to make minor changes to Australian government administrative processes relating to Medicare. These changes do not affect the existing arrangements for patients or health professionals.
Medicare subsidises access to health services by providing a 'benefit' for clinically relevant services performed by an appropriate health professional. Currently, there are almost 6,000 services listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. The legal basis for most of the Medicare Benefits Schedule exists in regulations which contain tables of medical, diagnostic imaging and pathology services.
The Health Insurance Act 1973 currently provides that these regulations cease to be in force annually. As a result, they need to be remade each year to ensure that Medicare benefits can continue to be available to patients.
The annual sunset period has been in the actsince the inception of Medicare and was used to provide an up-to-date record of Medicare items each year. This process is now unnecessary, as the Legislation Act 2003 requires compilations of all legislative instruments to be published on the Federal Register of Legislation.
The bill removes the annual sunset period to reduce unnecessary administrative work and mitigate the risk that an error during the remake process could affect patient entitlements to benefits under Medicare.
The bill also removes several redundant provisions in the act which are no longer required. This includes removing references to the establishment and operation of the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee which has not been active for more than 20 years, removing calculations relating to Medicare benefits which are no longer used, and removing references to historical requirements for optometrists to reflect modern administrative arrangements.
To conclude, the bill makes minor administrative changes to improve the operation of the Health Insurance Act 1973. The bill does not affect which services are available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, who is entitled to Medicare benefits, or the amount of Medicare benefits. I commend the bill to the House.