TOO COSTLY: Exact Radiology’s Dr Neelash Ratangee (left) and mammographer Karyn Freeman (right) are concerned about the growing gap fees for mammograms.
TOO COSTLY: Exact Radiology’s Dr Neelash Ratangee (left) and mammographer Karyn Freeman (right) are concerned about the growing gap fees for mammograms. David Nielsen

Costs threaten vital screenings

SKYROCKETING costs and stagnant Medicare rebates mean many Ipswich women will soon have to pay gap fees for potentially lifesaving diagnostic mammograms.

Two imaging providers, Exact Radiology and Clarke and Robertson Radiology, offer bulk-billed mammography services in Ipswich, but Exact will review the policy next year.

Medicare rebates haven't been indexed for 14 years leaving providers struggling to offer the imaging procedure with no out-of-pocket expense.

After absorbing costs for years Dr Neelash Ratangee said it was likely a gap fee would soon be introduced at Exact, causing some women to postpone or even skip the critical procedure.

"I think some women will skip the procedure, but I think what will probably happen is patients will present late for their disease assessment," Dr Ratangee said.

"I think they'll present from stage two upwards.

"I also think it will put more pressure on Breast Screen Queensland, which is not meant to be a diagnostic service, but a screening service."

James Healy, regional manager of the I-MED Network which runs Clarke and Robertson, said there was no current plan to remove bulk billing, but agreed that more Medicare support was needed.

President of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association, Dr Sue Ulreich, called on the Federal Government to close the gap in the fees for radiology services including mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and guided biopsy procedures, all used to diagnose breast cancer.

"These procedures can cost women hundreds of dollars in the initial diagnosis and ongoing yearly imaging follow-up, due to the inadequacy of Medicare rebates," Dr Ulreich said.

"A Medicare-funded MRI of the breasts is only available for limited indications and potentially adds further costs."

Member for Blair Shayne Neumann stood by the government's commitment to Medicare highlighting recent increases in MRI funding and efforts to ease cost of living pressures.

"The 2011-12 budget provided $104.4 million over four years to implement the Diagnostic Imaging Review Reform Package," Mr Neumann said.



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