Since replacing the bumbling Peter Dutton as health minister, Sussan Ley has managed to clean up much of his mess, particularly on the GP co-payment issue.

Ley has spent the four months she’s been in the job consulting with the health sector on efficiencies in primary health care, something that Dutton failed to do prior to announcing the co-payment, or its failed revamp last December.

Today, she announced a Medicare overhaul that includes establishing a Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce to conduct a line-by-line assessment of the current, 5000+ MBS list, a Primary Health Care Advisory Group to advise on ways to better integrate management of primary and acute care around chronic illness and mental health, and more integrity measures aimed at the small number of health professionals who abuse the current system.

There’s a little hypocrisy in the measures targeting practitioner integrity, given the Coalition refused to support Labor’s efforts to crack down on rorting by practitioners of dental and chronic disease management programs. And “better care for people with complex and chronic illness… and greater connection between primary health care and hospital care” is in essence motherhood within the health sector.

Nonetheless, Ley’s consultation-heavy approach has reversed a lot of the damage done by Dutton in his fortunately brief stay in the portfolio, and should set the stage for more efficiency in the sector.

If only the government, in its eagerness to strip the states of billions in funding, hadn’t walked away from the similar process on acute care that was put in place by the Gillard government in its agreement with the states on hospital funding.

Peter Fray

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