Medicare is holding more than $110 million in unpaid rebates owed to 670,000 Australians because it does not have their bank details.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said it takes only about a minute to provide the necessary information to receive the rebates.
“I couldn’t see why anyone wouldn’t put their bank account details in the system to get what they’re owed,” he said on Thursday.
“People need to take responsibility to provide us with their bank account details. We give people ample opportunity to do that and we constantly remind them to update their bank account details with us.”
Mr Keenan said Medicare had written reminder letters to thousands of Australians, but many still failed to update their details.
“People live busy lives, there’s a lot going on, these sorts of things can slip through the cracks,” he said.
Mr Keenan believed some people have not yet received what they are owed because they had just forgotten to update their details.
Medicare stopped issuing cheque rebates several years ago. Refunds from visits to medical practitioners are now paid directly into a patient’s bank account.
“It’s far simpler, of course, for people just to go to their doctor and get the rebate paid directly to them,” Mr Keenan said.
“We do it across the whole government now. For example, the Australian Taxation Office has been doing that for a long period of time.”
Mr Keenan said patients could nominate whether they would receive the money or someone else. For example, teenagers with their own Medicare cards could nominate a parent’s account to receive any refund, given they were likely to be the ones paying the medical bills.
Privacy laws prevent Medicare from contacting the ATO to request individual bank details, the Minister’s office said.
Meanwhile, a federal government review has recommended Australians have access to 10 Medicare-funded sessions with a psychologist without being diagnosed with a mental disorder.
The review recommended access to rebates for psychological therapy services for people who are at risk of developing a mental disorder, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
As it stands, Australians have to be diagnosed with a disorder and be on a mental health plan from their GP before they can access Medicare-funded psychology sessions.