Medicare's face-to-face help leaves the building

UNFAIR CHANGE: Freda Tisdell, of East Ballina, is unhappy about the fact you can no longer talk to someone face to face at Medicare.
UNFAIR CHANGE: Freda Tisdell, of East Ballina, is unhappy about the fact you can no longer talk to someone face to face at Medicare. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

WHEN Ballina resident Freda Tisdell walked into her local Medicare centre on Wednesday to make her usual claim, she was told the government service would no longer be providing "face-to-face" service.

"I got quite a shock," she said.

"There was no warning."

Ms Tisdell said all the desks in the building were empty and a staff member was telling customers they would no longer be able to make claims in person.

"He actually said to me there is no face-to-face help at all from the Medicare section," she said.

Ms Tisdell said she and several other customers were told if they wanted to make claims they would have to do so online or by filling out a form and sending it in.

While Ms Tisdell said she wouldn't have a huge problem claiming online, she said it was "unfair" for many of the seniors in the area.

"It's always been so easy to walk in, with your receipts and your paid bill and present it to them and they just put it through into your account," she said.

"In this sort of area there would be so many people who don't have computers, elderly people."

"And you imagine people at 85 and 90 trying to fill in the form, they wouldn't know where to start."

But the Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said the Ballina Medicare office would continue to provide face-to-face services.

"Local residents can be assured that the Ballina Service Centre continues to offer face-to-face services for all Centrelink and Medicare customers and we are committed to providing quality customer service," he said.

"We apologise to the customer for her experience and will be happy to follow up with her to ensure she gets the service that best suits her circumstances."

Mr Jongen said staff at the Medicare and Centrelink Service Centre can show customers with simple inquiries how to connect with the department online so in the future they can manage their business without having to visit a service centre.

"This allows staff to provide intensive support for customers with more complex inquiries," he said.

Topics:  medicare

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