Defence health 'devalued'
Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
DEFENCE Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon has rejected doctors' claims that the health of military staff will be imperilled by a $1.3 billion outsourcing of medical care to Medibank Private.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton wrote on Wednesday to Mr Snowdon saying the scheme ''devalues the health needs of serving personnel and fails to recognise the importance of ensuring these personnel are fit and well for active duty''.
Dr Hambleton said the Australian Defence Force was in danger of breaking its ''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 being 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 presently refer patients to specialists through their own trusted networks will instead make referrals through a Medibank call centre to ''preferred providers'' signed on with the health 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 entered into a $1.3 billion, four-year contract with Medibank Health Solutions to ensure ADF members continue to receive high-quality medical care while also ensuring prudent use of taxpayers' money.
As of Wednesday, about 2500 specialists had signed up as preferred providers, about one-10th of the about 25,000 specialists in Australia.