June 21, 2024
How GPs can maximise general practice incentives


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The RACGP’s health reform and funding lead detailed important information around the payments at the Practice Owners Conference.


How GPs can maximise general practice incentives

The RACGP will continue to advocate to ensure MyMedicare incentives best meet the needs of patients and GPs.



General practice incentive payments and related reviews, new funding models of care, and how practices can maximise the benefits of the MyMedicare rollout were all covered in a practical session at the RACGP Practice Owners Conference on Sunday.

 

A Q&A session following the presentation showed attendees’ interest was piqued, with more questions asked than the facilitators had time to answer.

 

Dr Michael Wright is a Sydney GP, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform, and Chief Medical Officer at Avant.

 

Alongside Better Medical’s Brett McPherson, a practice manager and member of the REC–FHSR, he presented to a standing-room only audience on the final day of the conference.

 

MyMedicare and payment incentives

In the 2024–25 Federal Budget, the Government announced it would allocate $16 million for the implementation of MyMedicare changes designed to enable the payment of incentives to GPs and practices.

 

Dr Wright covered the basics of MyMedicare enrolment, plus upcoming changes that practices should be aware of – including an update that will limit enrolled patients’ ability to access chronic disease management plans to one clinic only.

 

‘From November this year, there’s a new system where patients who are registered will only be able to get their chronic disease management items done through their enrolled practice – to support greater continuity of care,’ he said.

 

‘So, if your patient is enrolled, they can only get it done from your practice. [However], if they’re not enrolled, they can [still] get it done anywhere.

 

‘That’s an important change which we will get a lot more information about.’

 

The session also provided an overview of current and incoming incentives relevant to general practice, as well as recent changes, pertinent issues, and opportunities to maximise incentives.

 

Dr Wright covered the three streams under the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) and new payments introduced this year:

‘The WIP Rural Advanced Skills payments are scaled to encourage service delivery in more remote areas,’ Dr Wright said.
 
‘Eligible medical practitioners and rural generalists can claim payments.’
 
Annual incentive payment amounts for each stream, across all MMM areas, were also detailed, as well as examples of incentives based on Standardised Whole Patient Equivalent (SWPE).
 
‘If you have a SWPE in a 1000-patient practice, you have to report the hours that you’ve got the nurse or other health professional working,’ Dr Wright said.
 
‘So, if they make up that full time of 12.5 hours, you then get a payment of $32,500 to support your practice to employ that nurse.’
 
New MyMedicare incentives
The session also covered two additional incentives which sit under the MyMedicare rollout.
 
Announced late last year, the new General Practice in Aged Care Incentive is set to start 1 August, with eligible practices able to register from 1 July.
 
Participating practices will receive quarterly payments to both GPs and the practice for providing quality bundled care. The incentive will see $300 per patient, per year, paid directly to GPs, and $130 per patient, per year, paid directly to the practice. Rural loadings will also apply based on MMM status.
 
The RACGP has raised concerns about the incentive, saying it offers inadequate support for GPs, with a recent newsGP poll suggesting a lack of interest in providing aged care services based on the new incentive.
 
Nonetheless, Dr Wright said ‘it is worth knowing’ for those GPs and practices having to meet the servicing requirements.
 
‘The final details of some of this hasn’t quite been released yet, but there has been discussion around whether some of the items can be provided by telehealth, so good to keep an eye out,’ he said.
 
The other upcoming MyMedicare incentive payment is focused on supporting wrap around primary care for frequent hospital users. Set to begin in July this year, the incentive aims to support patients with chronic conditions to connect to a general practice via MyMedicare to reduce hospital visits.

‘This program provides additional funding for practices who identify patients who are regular hospital attenders,’ Dr Wright said.

 

‘The exact details on this one are also being negotiated because it’s being rolled out across nine Primary Health Networks [PHNs] this year, and then more broadly from July 2026.

 

‘So it might not be relevant to all of us, but if your PHN is one involved, it’s worth contacting them to understand how you might be able to get involved.’

Michael-Wright-article.jpgDr Michael Wright and Brett McPherson presenting on MyMedicare and general practice incentives at the final day of the Practice Owners Conference.

Reviews

The Federal Government announced a number of reviews in response to the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report, with Dr Wright discussing those with particular significance for general practice:

‘These all include increasing access to primary care, encouraging multidisciplinary team-based care, modernising primary care and supporting change management and cultural change,’ he said.
 
The RACGP provided its submission to the Effectiveness Review of General Practice Incentives in December 2023.
 
‘This is basically a review offered on the incentive programs we’ve discussed,’ Dr Wright said.
 
‘It’s set up to identify what’s working, what’s not working, to better align incentives with the actual cost of care to see if there are gaps and other incentives that should be introduced, or to see essentially how we can improve the program.
 
‘It is just about the PIP [Practice Incentive Program] and WIP, not about the broader incentives, and hopefully given the timelines, this will fit in with those other reviews to improve the design of the incentives.’
 
An expert advisory panel has been working with the Department of Health and Aged Care to develop a report with recommendations for implementing these new funding models of care.
 
‘The college provided a submission at the end of last year, and we expected there would be something in the Budget, but there hasn’t been anything announced yet,’ Dr Wright said.
 
‘Overall, the RACGP will continue to advocate for general practice and push to ensure MyMedicare incentives best meet the needs of our patients and GPs and practices providing the care.’
 
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