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5 August, 2022

Changes coming to isolated patients’ travel support scheme

By Sharon Bonthuys

If you travel to Dubbo or beyond to attend specialist medical treatment, do you access the NSW government’s Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS)?

This scheme reimburses patients in regional and rural areas who are required to travel long distances to access specialist healthcare.

The Gilgandra Weekly has heard that some shire patients are reluctant to access the scheme because it is deemed “too hard” to apply, and is “too limited” in what services are covered. We have also heard that the scheme is not well known in the community.

The IPTAAS program is expanding next month and it may be worth reconsidering by patients not currently using the scheme. From August 2022, IPTAAS will provide coverage for some treatments that are not currently covered and will also increase the subsidies payable for accommodation and travel of 200km or more per week.

“The NSW Government recently announced a $149.5 million dollar expansion of IPTAAS as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget,” said a spokesperson for the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD).

“As part of this investment, patients seeking [support for travel to] non-commercial clinical trials, high risk foot clinics, highly specialised and publicly funded dental health clinics and ocularists will be eligible for assistance for the first time while accommodation and travel subsidies are being increased,” the spokesperson said.

In addition, NSW Health is streamlining some of the forms and application processes to make it easier for patients to make claims. This involves testing changes with consumers, the spokesperson said.

“There will be further development work this year to improve these processes in collaboration with consumers and stakeholders and also promotion of the online claiming process that results in faster payments to patients,” the spokesperson said.

From August 2022, the following will apply in IPTAAS:

• Accommodation subsidies will be paid at a rate of:

• $40 per night if you are staying with family or friends or in Airbnb (up from $20 per night for singles or $40 per night with an escort).

• $75 per night if you are staying in not-for-profit or commercial accommodation for the first seven nights (up from $43 per night), and $120 per night from day eight onwards (up from $65 per night NFP and $105 for commercial).

• The private vehicle subsidy rate will increase to 40 cents per kilometre (up from 22 cents)

• Patients attending high-risk foot clinics, non-commercial clinical trials, highly specialised publicly funded oral health clinics in NSW and ocularists will be eligible to apply.

For those who struggle to understand what forms need to be completed to access the scheme, assistance is available over the phone or in person at Dubbo Base Hospital. Referrals from your treating doctor are required to access IPTAAS and are valid for 24 months.

This means if you need to travel multiple times for treatment over a period of time, the doctor’s referral lasts for 24 months. Should you need to travel by air to access specialist medical treatment, this can be requested by your doctor who then seeks an “endorsement code” from IPTAAS.

Travel by public transport is also covered under the scheme. One reason why some patients do not access the IPTAAS system is because they cannot afford the upfront cost of travelling to and staying in Dubbo or beyond for treatment.

The IPTAAS website states:

“Please do not delay travel for appointments or treatment. If you are experiencing financial hardship, contact us on 1800 478 227 to discuss your situation.”

Bulk billing of accommodation is available; patients will need to speak to IPTAAS staff about this. Given the multitude of IPTAAS forms that are currently available online and from health facilities in WNSWLHD, it is strongly recommended that patients contact IPTAAS by phone and speak to the scheme’s staff members who are available to provide advice and guidance to patients.

Alternatively, if you are in Dubbo you can visit the IPTAAS team in person at Dubbo Base Hospital.

Look for the IPTAAS signs or ask hospital administration for directions to the right counter.

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