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Minister stares down radiology battle

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July 12, 2017

Health Minister Greg Hunt has a fight on his hands over radiology.

The health minister is staring down angry radiologists , who fear patients will soon be forced to pay more for scans used to diagnose some of the most common forms of cancer if the Medicare rebate freeze isn't thawed.

The specialists - fuming at what they consider a broken promise by the federal government - are hitting surgeries in marginal seats across the country with a grassroots political campaign.

Health Minister Greg Hunt rejects the argument he broke a commitment to radiologists, and has dragged the opposition into the fray.

"Labor has still not made any commitment to the re-indexation of diagnostic imaging rebates. They did not include it in their election platform and have not announced anything since," a spokesman for Mr Hunt said.

The campaign - "Medicare is sick. And the government hasn't fixed it" - urges patients to lobby local MPs over the impacts radiology funding is having on them.

In its May budget, the Turnbull government pledged to lift the freeze on targeted radiology and diagnostic imaging services in 2020.

But the freeze will only be lifted on seven per cent of radiology items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which the sector argues does not come close to what's needed to detect and treat cancer.

Mammograms and a number of CT scans will be indexed under the plan but X-rays, MRIs, PETs and ultrasounds for breast, lung, ovarian and testicular cancer will not.

The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association estimates 300,000 people forego treatment every year because it is too expensive and fear this figure will only worsen if patients and practices continue getting squeezed.

ADIA president Dr Christian Wriedt says his normally conservative colleagues are at their wits' end, believing the only way they'll be taken seriously is to wage a battle akin to Labor's so-called Mediscare campaign at the last election.

Mr Hunt insists the agreement with the diagnostic imaging sector was either to keep the bulk billing incentive or to re-index payments, and his government had done both.

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