I don’t want to get into politics too much but the latest media twitterings about the federal health budget and trimming Medicare (and perhaps the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as well) has me a little annoyed. The thing is that the mechanisms for trimming are already in place. What I am referring to is the federal health technology assessment process and the role of the Medical Services Advisory Board (MSAC), the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Board (PBAC) and the Prostheses List Advisory Committee (PLAC) (replacing the Prostheses and Devices Committee (PDC)). At one of the Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi) conferences I attended, I learnt that the original remit of MSAC was to review all technologies funded by Medicare. But MSAC funding was only able to stretch to reviewing new technologies for approval. I think this is still the case. This means that there is probably a large number of legacy (the word I heard used to describe items in Medicare before the advent of MSAC) technologies still being reimbursed by the federal government that are ineffective and costly. So, why doesn’t the federal government increase funding to MSAC, PBAC and PLAC (and modify the remits) in order to review all technologies reimbursed by government so that ineffective, costly and perhaps unsafe technologies can be removed? It will be a increase in spending in the short term but in the long term, could save money.
I am not an expert in this area (ie – definitely not a health economist!) and am just reporting about what I know and have learnt. If readers have any comments, I would love to read them!