AGED 50 and have a knee injury or soreness? Prepare to wait months and wear the cost of a visit to a specialist before you can have an MRI scan … or fork out $500 plus to go private.
Under new rules coming in on November 1, over-50s will be denied a Medicare-funded MRI unless ordered by a specialist, whereas someone aged 49 can be referred for the diagnostic scan by their GP.
The change follows recommendations of a Medicare review which showed the number of knee MRIs had tripled over five years with the cost to the taxpayer increasing from $16 million to $38 million.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists has condemned the move, saying thousands of people aged 50 and over will bear the financial and emotional consequences of the federal government’s decision to restrict their access to valuable diagnostic imaging.
“This policy is effectively telling every Australian aged 50 and over, ‘hurt yourself trying to stay fit and you’ll be hurt in your wallet as well’,” said the organisation’s president Lance Lawler.
“The cut-off would discriminate against millions of middle-aged and older Australians who are trying to remain active.
“How is it fair, for example, that a 49-year-old who injures their knee playing sport would remain eligible for an MRI referred by their GP, while a 50-year-old suffering the same injury would first need to be referred to a specialist.
“This recommendation is not supported by contemporary clinical evidence and no scientific literature has been cited to support the recommendation.”