GPs 100% Rebate for Heart Health Checks

October 15, 2019 0 Comments

From November 1st, Medicare will raise the rebate for heart health checks to 100%. Around 1.5 million Australians at risk of heart attack or stroke will have access to free GP-administered heart health checks.

Heart diseases as one of the main leading cause of death

New change on the Heart Health checks rebate

 

GPs 100% Rebate for Heart Health Checks

Heart diseases as one of the main leading cause of death

Last month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on the Causes of Death in Australia in 2018.

The report suggested, heart disease and cerebrovascular disease were the leading causes of death in Australia, even with an ongoing decline in the rate of mortality associated in recent years.

The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare also confirmed the findings in their Deaths in Australia 2017 study, revealing that coronary heart disease is the leading underlying cause of deaths in Australia.

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Note: Leading causes of death are based on underlying causes of death and classified using an AIHW-modified version of Becker et al. 2006.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database

Interestingly, heart disease deaths decreased from 91.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009 to 54.6 deaths in 2018, while cerebrovascular deaths declined decreased from 11,216 in 2009 to 9,972 in 2018.

The Government has been putting a lot of effort into decreasing these numbers even further. For example recently, $220 million was given in funding for the Mission for Cardiovascular Health through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), and another $4 million investment for the development of a National Strategic Action Plan for Heart Disease and Stroke.

 

New change on the Heart Health checks rebate

From November 1, Medicare is raising the rebate for heart health checks to 100%. This will allow 1.5 million Australians at risk of heart attack or stroke to have free GP-administered heart health checks.

The change was released on the Australian Government – Department of Health website, confirming that from 1st November 2019 onwards, there will be a change on the rebate percentage from 85% to 100% of the fee.

Since the program was introduced five months ago, more than 35,000 people have had the check  to assess heart disease risks and assist patients in lowering this risk.

Heart Foundation suggests that a person is eligible for a Heart Health Check under Medicare if the patient is 45 years or older (30 years or older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) and has not had a heart attack or stroke.

The patient can then receive a regular heart health checkup performed by GPs. A Heart Health Check will assist patients in understanding a number of risk factors and for doctors to estimate how likely the patient is to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

Doctors desk with keyboard and equipment

Having this checkup will allow people to work with their doctors in managing their risk factors and improving their heart health.

The process usually involves checking the patient’s blood pressure and cholesterol level as well as discussing  what they eat, how physically active they are, whether they smoke, as well as other risk factors for heart disease such as their personal and family health history.

All the risk factors will be entered into a web-based calculator to understand the risk of having a heart attack or stroke for the patient in the next five years; low, medium or high risk.

Depending on the results, the doctors may give advice, information and support to make positive changes to the patient’s heart health or prescribe medication to lower the blood pressure or cholesterol.

Heart and doctor instrument

This new rebate has come after the Heart Foundation and News Corp Australia’s Serial Killer campaign in February saw the Federal Government introduce the new Medicare rebate at 85% for the nation’s first heart health screening program.

For GPs, this change will reimburse them for their time and better support general practices to prioritise the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The Heart Foundation said that they are happy to see that feedback from general practice has been taken on board and they look forward to continuing to work with GPs and practice nurses closely to expand the heart health checks.

In some cases, heart health checks have been proven to save a life.  For example, after having a general heart health check, a 38-year-old Sydney father discovered that he had the heart of a 90-year-old and a Melbourne mum found out that she was on the verge of a heart attack.

Questions

What are you thoughts on how GPs could improve their role in treating patients regarding their heart health? We would love to hear from you.

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