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More help to doctors for Sickness Benefit assess't

More help to doctors for Sickness Benefit assessments

The government is increasing funding and support to doctors assessing people for Sickness and Invalids Benefits.

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The government is increasing funding and support to doctors assessing people for Sickness and Invalids Benefits, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

"The changes will provide greater certainty around the assessment process, to ensure people are getting their correct entitlement in every case," Steve Maharey said

"The changes include greater use of second-opinion advice, so Doctors have better support in making assessments, and more robust information is available for Work and Income case managers. "The three changes - which take effect this month - were developed in consultation with the NZ Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and Independent Practice Associations.

"Firstly, fees paid to designated doctors, who assess medical eligibility for Invalid's Benefits, will increase to bring them in line with market rates. Fees to designated doctors and psychologists - which have not gone up since they were introduced in 1995 - increase from $67.50 to $119.25 per visit. Specialist fees increase from $103.84 to $168.75.

"Secondly, we have moved to address the dilemma doctors may face in determining medical eligibility for people applying for a Sickness Benefit. GPs and Work and Income case managers can now refer people to a designated doctor if they want a second opinion on a person's medical eligibility for a benefit.

"This new referral programme has been trialled in Wellington and Porirua since February and will now be available nationwide.

"Thirdly, we are changing the assessment forms used by doctors so more information can be provided about the sorts of work activities people are able to undertake.

"Many doctors were already providing information, written in the margins of the old form. As we now provide full employment services to people on Sickness and Invalids Benefits who want to work, it is important better information about their capabilities is captured."

The changes support the implementation of a $27.7 million initiative in this year's Budget to help more Sickness and Invalid's beneficiaries move into work.

The NZ Medical Association welcomes the increased fees says GP Council chairman Dr Peter Foley.

"It's important for government agencies to keep up with rising costs and market forces so that we retain skilled GPs in New Zealand. We have appreciated the Ministry's consultation process over this issue."

ENDS

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