Health minister announces $49.1 million investment for women ‘suffering in silence’

Federal health minister Mark Butler has announced “historic” changes to Medicare to bolster support for the more than one million Australians suffering from endometriosis.

As part of Tuesday’s budget, the Albanese government will invest $49.1 million into tackling the disease following news.com.au’s About Bloody Time campaign, which launched just two months ago calling for longer Medicare-funded consultations.

Speaking about the move on Channel 9’s Today show Friday morning, Mr Butler said he hoped the government’s commitment – which includes two new MBS item numbers – would stamp out “historical discrimination” towards women in an outdated healthcare system.

“Too many have had to suffer in silence because frankly, Medicare hasn’t been giving them the support that they need,” Mr Butler told host Sarah Abo.

“If I go to a cardiologist to see him about my heart condition, for example, Medicare would pay me twice as much as a woman receives to see her gynaecologist. I mean, that’s obviously just not right.

“It also is meant that so many women have been putting up with short consults that barely scratch the surface of their condition, or paying huge out of pocket costs that I wouldn’t have to pay to see a cardiologist.

“So we’re going to fix this historical gender pain gap and double the amount that Medicare pays a woman to see her gynaecologist.”

Speaking to news.com.au, Mr Butler said he was “deeply moved by the women who spoke about their experience with endometriosis during the About Bloody Time campaign.”

“I hope through this announcement today they feel listened to,” he added.

From July 1, 2025, women suffering from the debilitating disease will have longer specialist consultations of 45 minutes or more covered under Medicare.

Previously, an initial gynaecologist appointment received an $81.30 rebate which covered only 10 minutes of a gynaecologist’s time. The result of the small rebate saw patients being crammed into short sessions which barely scratched the surface of their issues.

As of July next year, Medicare will cover $168.60 for an initial appointment, and $84.35 for follow-up appointments, compared to the previous rate of $40.85.

The investment will provide about 430,000 more services to help women across the country with complex gynaecological conditions.

Mr Butler and Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney will announce the package at a press conference on Friday.

“The Government has heard the call from women across the country and we are strengthening Medicare so that it is serves the needs of women living with this debilitating disease,” Mr Butler said.

“Women are suffering unnecessarily. They’re having their experiences dismissed, being called hysterical and accused of drug shopping. Women’s pain is real and it’s time we stop telling women to just suck it up.

“We need women and more doctors to know about endometriosis, so we can reduce the diagnosis delay and get women the care they need.”

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside the uterus. It can cause severe pain and infertility.

News.com.au launched About Bloody Time on March 1, and smashed its target of 20,000 signatures in less than 30 hours. It hit 55,000 signatures within a week.

The compelling campaign video – which highlighted the wider impact of the disease on sufferers – was viewed 4.4 million times across news.com.au and its TikTok, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Shortly after launch, every state and territory health minister in the country joined the fight for federal action in a combined show of unity. And, as part of the coverage, a news.com.au survey of more than 1700 sufferers found 54.4 per cent had been dismissed by their health practitioner.

Despite the prevalence of the disease, which is almost on par with the amount of people who have type 1 and 2 diabetes, news.com.au exposed how specialists were ill-equipped to manage pain and Medicare rebates were so low there was no incentive to take time to provide thorough care.

Health experts said the outdated system only incentivised specialists to perform surgeries by offering rebates 200 times more than those applied to consultations – often leading to further surgeries and complications, instead of the exploration of other treatment options.

News.com.au editor Kerry Warren said the newsroom was “blown away” by the response to the About Bloody Time campaign.

“We were contacted by thousands of women, from people in their teens and early 20s, right up to women in their 80s, who all said the same thing: ‘We finally feel seen,’” she said.

“This win really shows the incredible power of our brand, our reach across the country and our ability to make people sit up and listen.”

Following the government’s latest commitment, the Albanese Government has now poured $107 million into endometriosis care.

Ms Kearney said the investment was a significant step in closing the gender pain gap.

“This new MBS listing will mean women with complex gynaecological conditions receive the attention and care they deserve, and sooner. It means we are tackling the inequities in the health system for so many women,“ Ms Kearney said.

“Australian women have made their voices heard. As a former nurse and now as Assistant Minister for Health, I’m committed to ensuring we shine a spotlight on women’s health issues.”

Read related topics:About Bloody Time

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