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Bush health boost

Saturday, 24th September, 2011

Outback people who have to travel to receive specialist medical treatment are about to get a lot more money back from the State Government for their costs.

Accommodation subsidies will rise by 30 per cent and there will be a 25 per cent increase in petrol subsidies, the State Government announced this week.

This is the first time the accommodation subsidy has gone up in 11 years and reimbursement for other costs will also rise.

The NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, on Thursday announced that the government was putting an extra $28 million into the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS).

“This boost supports the NSW Government’s commitment to ensuring that the people of NSW have access to timely and quality health care regardless of where they live,” Minister Skinner said.

Seven million dollars will go into the scheme this year and the rest would be spread over the next four years, she said.

Local MP John Williams said the extra help for patients was overdue and that the people in his vast electorate would welcome it.

To qualify for the IPTAAS people have to live at least 100 kilometres from the nearest specialist, and this would include nearly everyone in his Murray-Darling electorate, Mr Williams said.

“The NSW Government wants to make sure patients aren’t deterred from travelling to access vital treatment and this significant boost will help,” he said.

“Since becoming the Member for Murray-Darling, I have highlighted on many occasions the high level of dissatisfaction and the many complaints that my constituents had with the previous IPTAAS scheme,” he said. 

“It’s tragic to think that some people declined treatment because of the long distances involved and the costs they could not afford.”

Outback people needed fair and adequate compensation for the costs incurred in getting medical treatment and the Government had acted to ensure it happened, Mr Williams said.

“I am pleased to say that the NSW Liberal/National Government has listened and implemented this,” he said.

Mr Williams said the previous government had put only $6.5 million dollars into the scheme which was not nearly enough. In order to stay within budget, people were denied legitimate claims, he said.

“They made it so difficult to get access to that people gave up on it,” he said.

“People would put in a claim and then they had to jump so many hurdles for it to get approved.

“Another thing, of course, was when people had to go back and forth for treatment, every claim they made for each trip would have a fee deducted from it.”

Mr Williams said he was also very happy that Greenhill Lodge in Adelaide would benefit from the government’s changes to the scheme.

“We are absolutely blessed to have Greenhill Lodge which is a great facility for people who are having long term radiation, chemotherapy and other treatment.”

The changes to IPTAAS include:

* For the first time since 2006, there will be an increase in the rates for travel and accommodation assistance for people needing to travel at least 100 kilometres one way for specialist medical treatment. 

* Accommodation subsidies increase by 30 per cent, to $43 per single person and $60 per double up from $33 per single and $46 per double.

* Reimbursement for car travel will now be 19 cents per kilometre, up from 15 cents.

* It will also be easier for patients to stay with family and friends when receiving specialist medical treatment, with a subsidy of $140 per week, up from $30 per week. 

The new arrangements come into effect on January 1 and will also allow any patient travelling at least 200km in one week to claim IPTAAS subsidies. 

Previously, only patients travelling to receive renal dialysis services were eligible to claim under this rule.

There will also be a change to the $40 administration fee charged for processing claims made by patients who are not pensioners or health care card holders. 

From January 1, once a patient’s IPTAAS subsidies reaches $1,000 within a year, the $40 administration fee will be waived.

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