Media releases

September 28, 2015

Medibank’s Managing Director lends support to Health Minister’s commitment to MBS and primary care reform

Medibank Managing Director and CEO, George Savvides today gave his strong support to Federal Health Minister, Sussan Ley’s review of 5,700 Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) listed services aimed at ensuring these reflect contemporary clinical best practice and improve health outcomes for patients.

“Australia’s ageing population, the ever increasing costs of new technologies and the rising incidences of chronic illnesses are combining to place unsustainable cost pressures on our health system and threatening its long-term viability,” said Mr Savvides.

“The only way to ensure Australia can afford and sustain a high-quality health system is to make sure we regularly review practices and challenge the continued use of tests and procedures that produce no or little clinical value,” Mr Savvides said. “These consume valuable resources that could be better spent on treating patients with more effective, evidence backed clinical interventions.”

Mr Savvides continued, “In 2012, a report published by the University of Sydney* identified 156 treatments and services listed on the MBS that were potentially unsafe or ineffective and which warranted further investigation. In 2014, on behalf of our members Medibank is still footing the bill for these treatments, often running into millions of dollars.

“On behalf of our members Medibank paid out $28 million dollars for just three of these low value treatments in 2014 - arthroscopic surgery for knee osteoarthritis, radical prostatectomy and routine dilatation. There needs to be better and more rigorous scrutiny of the effectiveness of treatments if we are to be confident we are spending scarce health care dollars wisely. ”

Mr Savvides commented, “Cost variation in hospitals is an issue that also needs to be addressed. Our 2014 data reveals significant variations in hospital, prostheses and medical provider charges. For example, a hip replacement can cost between $29,000 and $49,500 in metropolitan hospitals while an appendectomy costs between $7,500 and $12,500. There is no credible explanation for this very high level of variation,” he said.

Mr Savvides also applauded the Health Minister’s review of the GP led Primary Care system and investigations into options to provide better care for people with complex and chronic illness.

“We believe in a broader role for GPs that extends care beyond the existing 15 minute consultation treadmill,” Mr Savvides said. “This requires more funding for high needs patients who will benefit from a more integrated primary care support service that focusses on improving the health status of the individual, their experience of care and reduces unnecessary health costs.”

Mr Savvides added, “Medibank’s primary health care focussed ‘Care First and Care Point’ programs are interventions which expand and support the GPs role and are designed to improve patient outcomes and save costs by managing patient needs more proactively in the primary care system.”

“Anecdotally we are being told these programs are having a substantial impact for both patients and GPs alike,” Mr Savvides said. “Patients are telling us they feel they finally have the right care team around them and GPs are advising us the programs enable them to see the ‘whole picture’ of a patient’s health, so they can better address and manage the patient’s health issues.”

Media contacts:

Colin Neathercoat,

Medibank Corporate Affairs 

0412 076 622

Notes to editors:

*Adam G Elshaug et al (University of Sydney)

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