We have been campaigning for it for some time and now the federal government has announced a new website that helps identify the true cost of specialist fees and hopefully puts a brake on out-of-pocket expenses.
The initiative came after a Ministerial Advisory Committee found more than one-in-three patients were experiencing out-of-pocket costs varying from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
More than a quarter of patients said they had incurred an out-of-pocket cost of more than $10,000 for breast cancer treatment.
This is not surprising because you told us, through a survey, that out-of-pocket medical expenses i.e. the cost not fully reimbursed by Medicare or private health insurance - were your biggest worry.
While this is good news, especially for seniors on low and fixed incomes, we want to be assured all specialists will be obliged to list their fees on the website and will not be able to just opt in.
National Seniors is gathering information from members about specialist fees as part of a broader health costs campaign. One of our members told us they had to pay $850 in out-of-pocket costs - after receiving their private health insurance rebate - just for an initial consultation with a surgeon to have a lump removed.
So how will the website work? Health Minister Greg Hunt says specialists will “initially be expected to show their fees” on the website to allow patients and GPs to consider costs when determining their choice of specialists. Also, the government plans to raise the awareness of consumers and providers about out-of-pocket costs highlighting that higher fees did not necessarily mean higher quality of care.
The website will publish existing de-identified data showing the range of fees and related out-pocket costs charged by specialists for the same treatments. We want to see more detail on how this will work. We also want GPs to use this website in consultation with their patients to identify specialists who are suitable and affordable.
We’ll let you know when the website becomes a reality. In the meantime, join our campaign to reduce out-of-pocket health costs here.