A DARCH resident says changes to Medicare claiming options are disadvantaging older people.
Jean Gregory attends regular specialist appointments and the facility does not offer Medicare rebates at the point of transaction so must put in a claim afterwards.
The 77-year-old did this with ease, using a drop box at the Warwick office, until the end of last year when she said it was removed.
“When I go to Warwick, I’m told I have to mail in a claim, which takes six to eight weeks, but I don’t have any other options,” she said.
“My specialist costs $138, and I get $60 back from Medicare.
“That’s a lot of money for a pensioner to be without for six or more weeks.”
Ms Gregory said she tried to claim online but needed help from her daughter and at the centre, she faced lengthy wait times to speak to a staff member.
“Older people shouldn’t have to do this; they’re disadvantaging people who are not computer literate,” she said.
“There’s certain things you shouldn’t be cutting down on.
“It’s not just me but so many people of my age that are not electronically capable.”
She contacted Cowan MHR Anne Aly about the problem, who wrote to Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, offering to host a secure box to collect Medicare claim forms at her office.
The Minister’s response listed the ways claims can be made and said the drop box was still available.
Dr Aly said the Warwick Medicare centre was the only one in her electorate, located in the area’s most south-east point, and was disappointed the Minister did not acceptthe offer.
“I’ve offered my office to have a secure box for Medicare claims because the service is clearly lacking in the northern suburbs,” she said.
“It’s not good enough and it’s having a real impact on people’s lives.
“This is a Commonwealth office; we’re here to provide a service to the community.”
Ms Gregory said it would be a much better option.
“It would make life easier and it would advantage probably a lot of other people’s lives,” she said.
Department of Human Services manager Hank Jongen said the drop box at Warwick had not been removed but the process had changed.
“There has been a slight change to the process: before a claim is placed into the drop box, a staff member reviews it to ensure all necessary information is included,” he said.
“This ensures the claim can be processed as soon as possible.”
Mr Jongen said claiming directly at medical practices was the “easiest and most convenient” way to lodge a Medicare claim and the rebate was generally paid into the person’s bank account within 48 hours.
Claims can also be made online or staff at service centres can assist with submitting online or over the phone, or people can queue to be served face-to-face.
“As those who are able to take up digital options do so, staff are better able to provide face-to-face services to people who require more intensive or personalised support,” he said.
“Processing times for manual claims depend on a range of factors, such as the nature and complexity of the claim.
“Over 90 per cent of straightforward claims are processed within 10 days of receipt, and rebates are paid directly into the person’s bank account.”