Deregulate all MRIs to ensure equity nationwide, says college

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City patients face high out-of-pockets, delays in care and no incentive to get scans in a timely fashion, thanks to an ‘unbalanced’ system.

The federal government must end the MRI licensing system for metropolitan patients and deregulate all machines across the country to guarantee equity of access, says the college of radiologists. 

In 2022 the government scrapped the licensing system for patients in remote and rural locations, a move which guaranteed unrestricted access to Medicare-funded MRI scans for 30% of the Australian population. 

However, according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, the system has continued for metropolitan Australia with patients only eligible for a Medicare rebate for their MRI scan if the machine used is licensed. 

That’s led to an “unbalanced” system causing metro patients to pay high out-of-pocket costs, enduring lengthy delays to access a licensed MRI, or simply forgoing imaging altogether at the expense of their health. 

“The College applauded the previous reforms which removed the licencing system on MRI machines in remote and rural locations,” said RANZCR president Professor John Slavotinek. 

“Nevertheless, there are still too many patients who are unable to easily access a Medicare rebate for undergoing an MRI scan and are left risking their health if they don’t have time to wait or the money to pay. 

“It is time for the federal government to take the next inevitable step by ending this unbalanced situation for metropolitan patients.  

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“The removal of the licensing system would result in a minimal impact on service volume with MRI services restricted for the most part to medical specialists rather than referral by general practitioner. 

“More importantly, it would improve equitable clinical outcomes for all Australians. 

“MRI scans provide superior diagnostic information for disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring, including detecting cancer.” 

The college wants the federal government to use the upcoming 2024-25 Budget to deregulate all MRI machines across Australia. 

Also on the RANZCR’s wishlist is further funding for its Regional and Rural Training Pathway scheme and extra support for brachytherapy services. 

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