April 22, 2020

by Anne Miller

There’s been a lot of spruiking and boasting from the Federal Government about the new telehealth services being offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim is to keep people away from crowded surgery waiting rooms where they could be exposed to all sorts of germs …

If you believed the publicity, getting a prescription renewed would be as simple as logging on to your iPad or making a telephone call.

But no.

The new temporary, bulk-billed Medicare Benefits Schedule telehealth items are only available to some patients:

  • Commonwealth concession card holders
  • Children under 16, and
  • Patients “who are more vulnerable to COVID-19”.

“Vulnerable” is the key word here. It is carefully defined and means:

  • A person required to self-isolate or self-quarantine (makes sense – you’ll be fined or maybe jailed if you break quarantine); or
  • Is at least 70 years old; or
  • A person identifying as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and at least 50 years old; or
  • Pregnant; or
  • The parent of a child aged under 12 months; or
  • Is being treated for a chronic health condition; or
  • Is immune compromised; or
  • Meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.

A chronic health condition is medical condition that has been present (or is likely to be present) for at least six months or is terminal.

The rest of us? Crickets …

It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to get sick yourself, or expose yourself to a disease which you could pass on to someone who IS vulnerable. 

Some economists (and quite a few social media commentators) have been expressing the view the cost of social isolation is too great.

They have been suggesting – in as many words – that people aged 60-plus could be sacrificed on the altar of the economy to allow younger folk to get on with their lives.

As an over-60s citizen that fits into none of the above categories, I’m feeling very expendable at the moment.


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