The new Medicare program MyMedicare has launched, allowing Australian patients to opt in for more free health benefits.
Australia was one of the few OECD countries without a voluntary registration program to build continuous relationships between patients and their GP, which experts say is proven to boost lifespans and improve healthcare satisfaction.
MyMedicare will allow bulk billing patients to be remunerated for longer telehealth calls — which are critical for mental health presentations and rural patients — as well as increasing subsidised support for chronic disease patients and aged care residents.
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The registration program, voluntary for both GPs and patients, was open to practices for early registration from July 1.
Enrolment officially opened to Medicare cardholders and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Veteran cardholders, as well as a number of other eligible patients, on October 1.
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In the four calendar days since patient registration opened, about 2900 practices completed the MyMedicare registration process and 10,300 patients enrolled, a Department of Health and Aged Care spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.
“There has been strong interest from general practices,” they said.
What is MyMedicare?
MyMedicare is a program that connects patients with a healthcare provider, encouraging an ongoing relationship that can offer more comprehensive and consistent care.
When a patient registers, it will notify the selected general practice or healthcare provider that the patient has chosen them as their regular care team.
Additional government funding will then become available to that practice “to help them provide the care you need,” according to the Department of Health website.
As Medicare is “strengthened” in line with government commitments, the department said: “Further registration benefits for patients will continue to be added.”
Registering for MyMedicare does not prevent patients from accessing care from other practices and healthcare providers, but their registered provider will appear in the patient’s My Health Record.
“If you do not wish your MyMedicare registration to appear on your My Health Record, you can choose this option in your My Health Record,” the Department of Health website said.
Patients can change their preferred registered practice, or their preferred GP within a registered practice, at any time.
What are the benefits for patients?
The MyMedicare program expands access to longer telehealth calls, by adequately remunerating GPs and patients bulk billing through the Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS).
Those longer consultations are necessary for a number of issues, including mental health presentations, which Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Nicole Higgins told 7NEWS.com.au was the most common reason for visiting the GP, especially for female GPs.
Whether patients are enrolled or not, a tripled bulk billing incentive will be available for children under 16, pensioners, and concession cardholders from November 1.
Aged care residents will get more regular visits from their GP and better care planning from August 2024.
And patients regularly heading to hospital will receive connections to “more appropriate” care in general practices from mid-2024.
“International data shows that patients who have a continuous relationship with their GP are healthier, they live longer, and they’re more satisfied with the care that they get,” Higgins said.
“We also know that they have less hospitalisations and emergency presentations.”
Who is eligible?
Medicare cardholders and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Veteran cardholders are immediately eligible for MyMedicare.
Patients who have had one face-to-face visit with their healthcare provider in a rural and remote location marked as a six or seven on the Modified Monash Model (MMM) are also eligible.
Two face-to-face visits at practices and healthcare providers must be recorded within the past 24 months for all other locations.
People who are facing hardship, including people experiencing domestic and family violence and homelessness, will be exempt from all eligibility requirements.
How to register
There are a few different ways patients can enrol, but the best way to start is to check that your chosen practice or healthcare provider is registered with MyMedicare.
Patients can then go into their chosen accredited general practice, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, Aboriginal Medicare Service, nurse practitioner-led practice with a GP, or other non-traditional practice, as long as it meets the provider criteria.
Patients can fill in a form there and staff will then complete the registration in the MyMedicare system.
The registration process can also be kick-started within a Medicare Online Account or Express Plus Medicare Mobile app. Practice staff will then accept the registration in the MyMedicare system.
Alternatively, patients can ask their practice to kick-start the process, which will trigger a registration requiring completion by the patient within their Medicare Online Account or Express Plus Medicare Mobile app.
Residents of an aged care facility don’t need to physically attend a practice to complete their registration — it can be completed with a GP-provided form or in their Medicare Online Account.
Young people aged between 14 and 17 can register and provide consent without a parent or guardian.
Children under 14 years will require a parent or guardian to provide consent and register on their behalf.
For more information, click here.
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