Media Release: 12 July 2022
“Approximately 25 per cent (60,000+ people) in Australia have ME/CFS symptoms so severe they are housebound or bedbound making telehealth their only practical option.”
Emerge Australia, the national patient organisation supporting an increasing number of Australians battling Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) today called on the Federal Government to reassess its plan to cut some telehealth services and charge the cost for longer consultations directly to patients.
Anne Wilson, CEO of Emerge Australia, said “since the announcement of the plan the organisation has had many distressed calls, especially from pensioners, who were worried about not being able to pay extra fees for longer telehealth consultations as they battled with ME/CFS.
“At the heart of the matter are patient rebates for telehealth consultations longer than 20 minutes.” It has been announced – these are scheduled for removal. The decision also includes 70 different telehealth-related consultations, 33 initial and complex specialist items and 40 specialist in-patient items.
Ms. Wilson believes the decision not to extend pandemic-related telehealth services that ended on 30 June places those with chronic and complex conditions like ME/CFS and Long COVID at increased risk due to the need for longer consultations.
Supporting the announcement by AMA President Omar Khorshid on the issue, Ms Wilson welcomed the recent announcement by Federal Health Minister, the Hon Mark Butler MP, to delay the implementation of the proposed changes for three months to allow further discussions.
“We don’t want patients who are already vulnerable and unwell to suffer further,” Ms. Wilson said. “The removal of Medicare rebates for consultations over 20 minutes will hit those with ME/CFS very hard.
“Approximately 25 per cent (60,000+ people) in Australia have ME/CFS symptoms so severe they are housebound or bedbound and are dependent on carers, making telehealth their only practical option.”
“Seventy-five per cent of the people battling ME/CFS are women, and more than two-thirds of patients live below the poverty line. This makes any added extra cost for telehealth a major issue for these patients, especially those on a fixed budget such as the pension,” Ms Wilson said.
“It is important that the needs of people with ME/CFS be recognised within the telehealth program given GPs need time to properly diagnose ME/CFS and Long COVID in order to develop appropriate management and treatment strategies,” Ms Wilson said.
Anne Wilson spoke today to Luke Grant on Radio 2GB about this decision by the Federal Government to reassess its plan to cut some telehealth services and charge the cost for longer consultations directly to patients.
Ron Smith OAM, Media Communications, Emerge Australia
Mobile: 0417 329 201
Anne Wilson, CEO, Emerge Australia available for comment.