The Tasmanian Government will work to implement all the recommendations of an independent review into the Patient Travel Assistance Scheme (PTAS) this year after the review found increased costs and some patient dissatisfaction with the scheme.
One of the most significant outcomes is that, from 1 January 2023, concession card holders will travel free.
PTAS provides financial subsidies to eligible Tasmanian residents who are required to travel long distances to access specialised services. Eighty percent of PTAS patients are concession and pension card holders. It’s governed by the Department of Health through the PTAS Ministerial Policy and applied by the Tasmanian Health Service (THS).
The review of the scheme (commissioned by the Tasmanian Government and conducted in 2021 by health consulting group KPH) found that ‘in recent years PTAS activity and claim costs have increased substantially’ along with ‘increased complaints particularly about the ambiguity and inconsistency in the application of the scheme and barriers to equitable access.’
In comparing the scheme to others around Australia, it reported that ‘financial support offered by PTAS is equal to, or in some instances, more generous than other jurisdictions’, but that ‘the patient contribution requirement of PTAS is the most onerous in the country.’
Some of the 35 recommendations of the review:
-The scheme should preferentially support access to Tasmanian services as close to home as possible for people most affected by travel and travel related costs, while providing value for money
-Remove patient contributions for concession card holders
-A number of principles should guide decision making by the THS – equity of access, transparency of process, consistency of application, patient centred decision making and sustainable use of resources
-Increase travel and accommodation subsidy rates
-Reduce up-front costs by PTAS staff making travel and accommodation bookings
-Timely determination of exceptional ruling requests, outcome appeals and unresolved complaints
-Prevent referrals to interstate services that are available in Tasmania
-Make the application process easier
-Increase upfront payment of eligible subsidies and faster reimbursement of PTAS claims
-For claims not approved, give clear reasoning why, outline ways to resubmit or get more information and how to appeal a decision
-Implement a robust process of appeal
-Improve communication about the scheme, including improvement of the PTAS website
Another recommendation was that the performance of the scheme, which started in 2013 (and the which has not been substantially reviewed since) should be reviewed at least annually by a new PTAS Advisory and Approval Committee.
Tasmania’s Department of Health will ‘work with members of the public and healthcare providers to implement the accepted recommendations across 2022-23.’