The Federal Government announced yesterday they will be extending the Medicare-subsidised rebates for COVID-19 telehealth consultations for a further six months, offering ongoing assistance to patients and medical practices during the global health pandemic.

The scheme, first implemented at the end of March when the pandemic sent Australia into lockdown, was due to lapse at the end of September. The announced extension will continue to support the provision of primary care during these difficult times.

Federal Health Minister, Hon. Greg Hunt MP said the scheme has been a “revolution in health delivery”.

“It was borne from necessity, but it’s delivered better health care for over 30 million consultations so far.

“In particular we know it’s been used for over 18 million regular consultations by general practitioners,” said Mr Hunt.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA), who was a key stakeholder in the introduction of telehealth items earlier this year, has been working behind the scenes to encourage their extension beyond the original 30 September expiry date.

AMA president, Dr Omar Khorshid reinforced the importance of the telehealth extension in continuing efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“These telehealth services have been embraced by patients and doctors alike.

“This announcement means that medical practices can now start planning appointments beyond the end of this month, knowing that these subsidies remain in place,” said Dr Khorshid.

The AMA has also commented that they’d like to see telehealth become a permanent part of the health system, with ongoing Medicare rebates to patients using the service.

“The AMA remains in discussions with the Federal Government about the long-term future of Medicare-funded telehealth. Telehealth is working very well and, now that we have this extension in place, we have time to finalise the future of telehealth in Australia,” Dr Khorshid said.