Australian Medicare under fire for ‘freezing’ many patients out of imaging

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While Australia’s Medicare differs from the federal program of the same name in the U.S., the Land Down Under’s healthcare system is just as politically charged and hotly debated. The latest scuffle is over a Medicare freeze that has ballooned patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, most conspicuously for advanced imaging procedures.

For example, Australian Medicare recently increased subsidies for 59 types of radiology scans—yet about 66,000 people in the state of Victoria alone are skipping the exams because of cost, the Herald Sun reports.

“For a huge number of diseases, particularly in the cancer setting, you need clear images to define it in a way that will allow treatment to begin in an appropriate way,” Christian Wriedt, MD, president of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association, tells the newspaper. “Delayed diagnosis means the disease process, when it finally presents, will be more advanced so treatment may be more severe and how long the patient may live could be reduced.”

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