New government website compares medical specialists’ costs

We’re paying too much to see medical specialists. So, how can a new government website help?

Some doctors charge 10 times more than the Australian Medical Association (AMA) recommends, adding to the $1.6 billion a year in gap payments not covered by patients’ health funds or Medicare.

National Seniors welcomes the launch of the Australian Government’s online Medical Costs Finder tool as an initial step in cutting costs.

It’s a tool we’ve been asking for as part of our campaign to put pressure on specialists to bring down costs.

You can sign up to our campaign here.

Currently, the tool covers a limited number of procedures, but the government says it will be further developed.

You can use it to:

  • see how much people have paid out of pocket for a medical procedure, and
  • compare the costs estimated by specialists and other health providers for a hospital procedure with the typical costs for the procedure in your area or location.

Compare the market

This can help you better understand what is typically paid and whether your likely out of pocket costs are high or low, compared with what other people have paid for the treatment. However, the tool does not enable you to search individual specialists’ fees, just the average fee amount for specific procedures by postcode. National Seniors wants the government to expand this to better enable people to compare actual fees and charges.

Medical specialists can charge whatever they like so it is vital that consumers discuss fees and procedures with their referring GP and with the specialist. The online tool can assist with this.

High costs don’t mean best service

The peak body for Australia’s private health insurance industry offered sound advice, saying high costs don’t equal better health outcomes or quality.

“The training standards for Australian medical specialists are sufficiently high to ensure the vast majority are capable of providing high quality clinical care, regardless of what they might charge,” said Private Healthcare Australia’s Director of Policy and Research, Ben Harris.

“There is nothing compelling them to inform patients in advance of treatment what their fees are. This [government] website gives consumers and GPs the ability to compare fees at the point of referral – avoiding potential bill-shock and out-of-pocket costs.” 

Consumers are entitled to ask their specialist before surgery for an accurate quote, including anaesthetists and assistant surgeon fees.

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