The new scheme "devalues the health needs of servicing personnel" ... AMA president, Steve Hambleton. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
THE Defence Personnel Minister, Warren Snowdon, has rejected doctors' claims that the health of military staff will be imperiled by a $1.3 billion outsourcing of medical care to Medibank Private.
The Australian Medical Association president, Steve Hambleton, wrote to Mr Snowdon on Wednesday claiming the new scheme ''devalues the health needs of serving personnel and fails to recognise the importance of ensuring that these personnel are fit and well for active duty''.
He went on to say the Australian Defence Force was in danger of breaking a ''clear commitment to Defence personnel that they will receive high-quality health services in a timely fashion''.
Under changes to be finalised on Monday, all Defence personnel treated in Australia, including soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, will be handled by Medibank Health Solutions, an offshoot of the government-owned health insurer, Medibank Private.
Military doctors who now refer patients to specialists through trusted networks will instead make referrals through a Medibank call centre to ''preferred providers'' signed with the fund.
Doctors say the fees being offered by Medibank are too low and the changes compromise the professional relationships between GPs and specialists.
Defence has a $1.3 billion, four-year contract with Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) to ensure Defence members continue to receive high-quality medical care while at the same time ensuring prudent use of taxpayers' money.
A spokesman for Mr Snowdon said there would be ''no reduction in healthcare entitlements to ADF members''.
As of Wednesday, about 2500 specialists had signed as preferred providers. The spokesman said the ADF had no involvement with the contracts offered to specialists, which were a commercial matter between MHS and doctors, but the ADF maintained ''oversight of health services'' under its contract with MHS.