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Physiotherapy fees under the Comcare scheme will remain as they were, with specialisation remunerated

Win for Comcare physiotherapy fees

Emma Breheny and Carolyn Coleman
29 April 2016

In 2015 Comcare, the compensables body that covers the Northern Territory (NT), asked the APA to provide feedback on a number of proposed changes to the NT fee schedule. Of major concern was the proposal to remove higher fees for level 2 (titled or specialist) physiotherapists. The APA opposed this proposal in meetings with Comcare and also presented a formal submission on behalf of NT members who treat Comcare patients.

In a great advocacy win, Comcare listened to this feedback and decided to keep the level 1 and level 2 physiotherapy fee structure in place.

'The general public are very comfortable paying more for experience, because that’s how it works in most professions'

There are 11 private practices in NT that would have been affected by the removal of tiered billing, including APA Sports Physiotherapist Karen Schneider’s practice.

‘If you have a level two physiotherapist with postgraduate qualifications seeing a Comcare patient, you’re more likely to get a more accurate diagnosis and therefore probably require less treatment in the long-term,’ Karen says.

She also highlighted that some patients may be in the Comcare system for significant periods of time, requiring the attention of a more experienced clinician to make them independent once again.

Comcare’s stated impetus for the changes was to make NT consistent with other states’ compensable systems; however, the APA’s research showed that other jurisdictions are in fact taking steps to recognise the expertise of specialist physiotherapists through their fee structures.

‘The general public are very comfortable paying more for experience, because that’s how it works in most professions,’ Karen says.

The APA also argued that tiered fees allow NT physiotherapists to cover the higher financial costs they face when upskilling due to geography. Without the ability to undertake professional development, the existence of specialist and titled physiotherapists in NT would be threatened, with significant long-term effects on Comcare costs and patient outcomes.

APA Sports Physiotherapist Marcus Mancer doesn’t treat Comcare patients but also supports the current tiered billing system. ‘It stands to reason that if you’ve spent more time studying and practicing, you should be better at what you’re doing and therefore get better results. You should be fairly remunerated for that,’ he says.

The final decision by Comcare is a great victory for physiotherapists and a sign of the broader community’s recognition of the further training specialist and titled physiotherapists undertake.

The decision also ensures that NT consumers will be able to choose more experienced physiotherapists for their healthcare in an informed and transparent way.

‘If a patient goes to an experienced physio when they’ve been in a system that doesn’t always work well for them, that experienced person can sort the forest from the trees, which is so important,’ Karen explains.



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