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Photos on Medicare cards a burden: doctors

Doctors have warned embedding photo identification on Medicare cards could hamper access to treatment for vulnerable people.

The government department responsible for issuing the cards is also concerned adding photographs could be extremely expensive.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson wants the cards to include photographs to stop fraud that she believes is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

A Senate committee investigating the idea will hold a public hearing in Canberra on Monday.

Australia's top medical body has warned the change would place a "red tape burden" on patients and healthcare providers.

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said there was no evidence the proposal would stop fraud.

Dr Bartone pointed out that photo IDs for babies or infants would need to be updated regularly, placing more administrative burden on parents and administrators.

Poor quality photos might also lead to people being denied care.

Dr Bartone warned the change would have a particularly negative impact on remote indigenous communities, who often had trouble accessing photo ID services.

The human services department said One Nation's idea was unwarranted.

Only 84 fraud cases involving Medicare users were referred to prosecutors in the past financial year.

This represents a tiny fraction of the 25.6 million Medicare customers, with 14.5 million cards currently in circulation.

About 4.5 million new or replacement Medicare cards are issued each year, and multiple members of the same family can be listed on one.

The department said a family of five, who would currently be listed on one card, would be likely to require their own individual cards under Senator Hanson's proposal.

Previous reviews of a similar proposal estimated the roll out would cost nearly $500 million.

A 2004 trial of Medicare cards with photo IDs in Tasmania saw limited uptake - mainly over privacy concerns - and the pilot was quickly scrapped.

The department urged federal politicians to consider what impact the changes would have on people in rural and remote communities trying to register.

The scheme would also need to be tailored for people with disabilities, mental health issues and those experiencing homelessness.

© AAP 2019

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