Thousands of patients to access new life saving treatment

Thousands of patients will now have access to new Medicare subsidies to treat epilepsy, stroke, lymphoma, heart diseases and other life-threatening conditions.

From November 1, women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer will also have free access to Medicare rebates for BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genetic testing. Close relatives of women found to have the mutations will also be eligible for the tests which have previously cost between $600 and $2000.

The federal government approved all the latest recommendations from independent expert on the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), Health Minister Greg Hunt will announce on Wednesday.

Among the new Medicare items are subsidies for more than 2000 patients with slow growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma to access PET (positron emission tomography) imaging to monitor the progress of their using nuclear medicine diagnostic services.

Roughly 800 patients every year will be eligible for a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) to replace aortic valves with minimally invasive surgery.

Patients with irregular heart rhythm who can't take blood-thinning medication will now have access to a new service (a transcatheter occlusion) to insert a device that can lower the risk of stroke.

Mechanical thrombectomy will now be in reach for around 200 stroke patients every year. The procedure dissolves blood clots, minimises damage to the brain and greatly improves patients' prognosis.

Epilepsy patients will benefit from six new Medicare items for vagus nerve stimulation therapy, designed to prevent seizures by sending mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve, much like a pacemaker.

Microwave tissue ablation was also added as an alternative to radio frequency ablation treatment for patients with liver tumours that can't be treated by conventional surgery.

Pregnant women and new mothers will have improved access to mental health assessments during pregnancy and in the early postnatal period, as well as a new MBS item for home visits in the first few weeks after birth by a midwife, GP or obstetrician.

"The Turnbull government has a rock solid commitment to Medicare, bulk billing and the PBS and our Long Term National Health Plan will ensure that Australians will continue to be supported by one of the best health systems in the world, long into the future," Minister Hunt said.

This story Thousands of patients to access new life saving treatment first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.