Thursday, 14 May 2020
Health Insurance Amendment (General Practitioners and Quality Assurance) Bill 2020; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
I am pleased to introduce the Health Insurance Amendment (General Practitioners and Quality Assurance) Bill 2020. The Bill amends the Health Insurance Act 1973 (HIA) to support simplifying Medicare administrative processes for recognition as a specialist general practitioner (GP) for Medicare purposes under the HIAand will align Medicare eligibility for GPs with the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) requirements. The Bill also removes legal ambiguity in relation to the definition of a quality assurance activity in Part VC of the HIA.
The current pathway to recognise a GP in the HIA requires a medical practitioner who has gained fellowship as a GP to apply to Services Australia for access to GP rebates and also to apply to the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) for specialist registration in the field of general practice. Implementation of the Bill will mean that Services Australia systems will, through an automated data exchange, utilise national registration data held by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) to determine this access, removing this duplicative process for GPs.
The NRAS commenced in 2010 and provides a nationally consistent process for registering specialist GPs. This includes mandatory reporting requirements for continuing professional development (CPD). Ahpra, in administering the national registration process, provides the most up to date and accurate data on all registered practitioners.
The Bill will provide a new definition of general practitioner as one who is a specialist in the field of general practice under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009 (Qld), as applied by States and Territories. A corresponding National Law is also implemented by Western Australia. Outdated provisions in the HI Act providing for medical practitioners to gain access to higher GP rebates will be repealed. There will be grandfathering and transition arrangements made in the Health Insurance Regulations 2018 to ensure that GPs who are currently eligible for higher GP rebates will continue to be able to access these higher rebates. This includes the cohort of GPs who are or have been on the Vocational Register who meet the eligibility criteria. These are medical practitioners who do not necessarily hold fellowship in general practice as they were in practice prior to fellowship and specialist registration becoming a requirement.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) will continue to be critical in setting professional standards for the specialty of general practice in Australia and will work with the MBA to ensure continuing quality in general practice.
The Bill will not impact on Medicare eligibility for international medical graduates or on Australian trained graduates who are on a workforce program or a GP training pathway with either ACRRM or RACGP.
The Bill also makes a minor but important technical change in relation to the Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme. It will not affect the operation of Part VC of the HIA but will remove an ambiguity.
The Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme under Part VC of the HIA is designed to encourage participation in quality assurance activities that are aimed at improving the quality of the health care system. The purpose of the Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme is to protect from public disclosure any personal and identifiable information that becomes known solely as a result of a declared quality assurance activity and it protects certain health care professionals involved in the activity from civil liability.
To be eligible for a declaration, a quality assurance program must be funded under at least one of the Commonwealth Health funded programs covered by the definition. This Bill will repeal an outdated reference to a former Appropriation Act and replaces it with the correct reference to the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009.
Despite the previous reference to the outdated appropriation legislation, the Bill also ensures that activities declared on or after 1 July 2009 are taken to have been valid declarations.
The introduction of the NRAS in 2010 for health professions has modernised the regulation of health professions by creating a single and national regulatory framework.
Streamlining the process for GPs to be recognised for appropriate access to Medicare rebates removes duplication and red tape and allows for a simpler, more efficient process for GPs to qualify for GP specialty and reduces processing for Services Australia.