Medicare funding announced for point-of-care HbA1c testing

By Dr Emily Lathlean MB BS, FRACGP
From November 1, 2021, point-of-care glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) tests will be listed on Medicare.

A statement released by Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the Australian Government’s proposed $2.1 million investment over the next four years was expected to fund 190,000 tests for people with diabetes.

Professor Tim Usherwood, Professor of General Practice at the University of Sydney, welcomed the announcement.

‘I think it is a great initiative,’ he told Medicine Today. ‘Not every patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus remembers to get an HbA1c test a few days prior to their quarterly review with their GP, so there’s often a wait for test results... It’s much more efficient to have a contemporaneous HbA1c result at the time.’

Currently, HbA1c tests only attract a Medicare rebate if performed through a laboratory.

Studies comparing point-of-care HbA1c testing with laboratory HbA1c testing have shown point-of-care testing ‘demonstrated the same or better clinical effectiveness as pathology laboratory testing,’ Professor Usherwood noted.

Other benefits found, he said, have included increased compliance with recommendations for testing frequency and treatment adoption, improved clinical outcomes, facilitation of patient education and motivation and improved quality of life.

Point-of-care HbA1c testing is common in specialist diabetes clinics; however, many general practice clinics do not currently have the necessary equipment.

‘Hopefully MBS rebates will become available for other point-of-care tests,’ Professor Usherwood said, ‘which would further streamline patient care and would improve affordability for practices as they only need purchase a single analyser to use with a range of test cartridges.’