“There’s no reason why GPs couldn’t keep an eye on patients who’ve got heart failure in their home – which is an expensive part of the healthcare system.
“Wound management is another one that ties up hospital beds which could easily be done at home.”
Dr Nespolon also backed health funds in their push to be able to partially cover some GP visits.
Private Healthcare Australia chief executive Rachel David said it made sense to allow mental health patients and those with multiple chronic illnesses – particularly those living in regional areas – to claim on their health funds for 40-minute GP consultations.
“With the rise of some of the bulk billing corporate GP clinics, the emphasis has shifted from longer consultations to 15-minute consultations,” she said.
“That’s not sufficient to be able to deal with some of these issues, particularly for people who don’t live close to a hospital.”
She argued if health funds were allowed to cover the gap fee, more GPs would offer longer consultations – as they can earn more in Medicare rebates by bulk billing short appointments.
Cost savings for insurers would be significant as about 2 per cent of health fund members accounted for 50 per cent of claims, she said.
Dr David welcomed the Health Minister’s planned rule changes to allow patients to claim on their hospital cover for some mental health and orthopaedic care, as part of the move to allow more hospital services to be delivered at home.
She said specialists, whose services were only covered if delivered in hospital, had “a strong incentive” to admit people even if it was not necessary, so they would not have to pay an out-of-pocket fee.
Mr Hunt said there was “no intention for health funds to provide general practice services” under his reforms.
“Medicare will continue to support these services,” he said.
“The focus is on working with the sector on models of care that can be delivered in the home instead of the hospital setting.
“We will continue to consult with doctors’ groups and the broader sector on these initiatives and how they can be best implemented.”
Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen said his party was “implacably opposed to health funds being able to cover GP services”.
“Universal healthcare is a fundamental pillar of Medicare and we will not stand for the Americanisation of the Australian health system which that would amount to,” Mr Bowen said.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.