The Australian Department of Health recently released its Medicare Benefits Schedule which called for changes on the health benefits, including a restriction on vitamin D blood test rebates.
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) is published by the Department of Health and is continually updated to include the services offered by Medicare.
For each year’s budget, the Australian government reviews the MBS to ensure that Medicare services are in-line with current evidence, is cost-effective, and works to improve health outcomes.
Over the past 10 years, the administration of vitamin D blood tests has increased nearly 4,000 percent. Reports from 2012 show an increase in vitamin D testing costs from $1.02 million in 2000 to over $140 million in 2012.
In an effort to reduce costs, Medicare will only provide rebates to the patients who are at the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Eligible patients include those with darker skin pigmentation, osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, or chronic lack of sun exposure. For a full list of eligibility, click here. The Australian Department of Health stated, “It is expected that practitioners will order pathology in a clinically appropriate way, consistent with the clinical guidelines issued by peak and expert bodies, including the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and National Prescribing Service, and in line with the conditions listed under Medicare.”
Testing for vitamin B12 was also included in this restriction and confined to only those considered high-risk.
Medicare Benefits Schedule. Australian Government Department of Health, 2014.