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Statement from Liz Cosson AM CSC – Secretary – Department of Veterans’ Affairs – Military Rehabilitation & Compensation Amendment (Single Treatment Pathway) Bill 2019

Friday 8 March, 2019


On 14 February 2019, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Single Treatment Pathway) Bill 2019 was introduced into the Australian Parliament. The Single Treatment Pathway measure was included in the Australian Veterans’ Wellbeing Package announced as part of the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

This measure removes the dual treatment pathway model under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) and replaces it with a Single Treatment Pathway model similar to arrangements under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988.

Currently, some veterans under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) must seek reimbursement from the department for the costs associated with their treatment. For DVA clients, this proposed legislation would mean that from 1 July 2019, approximately 4000 veterans will have access to a DVA health card (White Card), simplifying the way they access health treatment and reducing the financial pressure and administrative burden. This will ease the financial pressure on veterans and their families.

The changes to legislation administered by DVA are not designed to remove any entitlements, or lower the benefits for clients, but to simplify treatment arrangements. Importantly, it provides veterans with an easier way to gain access to treatment which is not compromised by their ability to afford treatment.

Click here to view the Bill.

 

Below are some FAQ’s regarding the new Bill as well as some examples to demonstrate how it will work.

What changes are being made in this measure?
The new arrangement will mean that all MRCA veterans, like other DVA clients, will have access to a DVA Health Card (White Card). From 1 July 2019, clients will present this card to the health care provider for payment by DVA through the Medicare system.

When will the changes take effect?
The measure, dependent on the passing of legislation, will come into effect from 1 July 2019.

Who will this impact?
This will affect veterans who currently seek reimbursement from DVA for the cost of medical treatment. All new MRCA veterans will be issued with a White Card.

What will be the impact of this change?
Veterans will not have to pay up front for treatment and then seek reimbursement. This will reduce financial pressure and red-tape for veterans. This will encourage veterans and their families to seek early treatment for their conditions.

For example:
A 45-year-old former member of the Royal Australian Navy requires an x-ray to investigate the cause
of back pain. The veteran is on the reimbursement pathway. Due to other financial pressures, the
veteran cannot afford to pay for the x-ray now and would need to delay the x-ray until he could save
enough money. A delay to getting the x-ray could lead to his back condition becoming worse and
needing more extensive treatment. Access to a health card would mean he could present it at the
surgery rooms and gain access to the x-ray immediately, and not face out-of-pocket expenses.

How do veterans get a White Card?
If the MRCA veteran, who does not currently hold a White Card, contacts the Department and requests a White Card, DVA will issue one.

The next time a MRCA veteran sends in a completed reimbursement form, DVA will pay for the past medical treatment and then issue a White Card; or

Can affected veterans use their new Veteran Card for all their health treatment going forward?
A MRCA veteran on the reimbursement pathway can apply for a Veteran Card at any time. With their Veteran Card they will have access to treatment for any mental health condition they may have under non-liability health care arrangements.

The cost of medical treatment for their accepted conditions under MRCA will still require reimbursement until the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Single Treatment Pathway) Bill 2019 passes.

Once the legislation commences and changes have been made in the system, the veteran can access treatment by showing their Veteran Card, without having to pay up front.

What if a veteran needs access to hearing services or a hearing aid?
All veterans with hearing loss are eligible to receive services through the Australian Government Hearing Services program, under White Card arrangements.

If a veteran needs a hearing device or services, what is available to them?
There is a comprehensive range of high-quality, modern hearing devices, including both in-the-ear and behind-the-ear, free of charge to all eligible veterans. These devices contain a range of beneficial features and technologies to help manage the impact of hearing loss.

If a veteran needs a hearing device, their hearing provider should offer them a fully subsidised device, from the range of more than 160 devices that correctly match their clinical needs. It is the correct matching of the device, the proper fitting and training in the use that will result in effective hearing outcomes.

Why are legislative changes required to authorise the past transfer of clients onto the health card method of payment?
In the past, a number of reimbursement clients were transferred to the White Card arrangement. The required legislative amendments will regularise the transfer of these clients to a White Card.

What if a health care provider refuses to see a DVA client because they can charge more for private patients?
If a client does experience difficulty in accessing health services, DVA can provide help to identify another provider, provider transport assistance, or consider a request from the provider to fund services at a cost above the DVA fee.

A request to pay above the DVA fee would be determined based on clinical need, and consider the patient’s ability to reasonably access another provider.

Will reimbursement still be available to clients?
Where an individual required treatment before they were issued a White Card, DVA will reimburse their treatment costs.

What happens if the health card does not work?
If clients encounter issues with using their card for their accepted conditions, DVA will reimburse their treatment costs or work with the health provider to pay for the services.

How will clients with complex health care needs be assisted?
Where arrangements are complex, DVA will consider the client’s needs and work directly with the health care provider to pay for the services.


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