In response to the latest Four Corners episode detailing how patients in the private health system can face massive out-of-pocket costs, Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale today called on Health Minister Greg Hunt to help tackle high out-of-pocket health costs through ensuring transparency of practitioner fees, as recommended in a 2017 Senate Inquiry chaired by the Greens.
“Patients with private health insurance are finding that they have no idea the size of their medical bills until after they have received treatment, when many discover that they owe tens of thousands of dollars,” Dr Di Natale said.
“This can add unnecessary and potentially harmful stress to patients when they are trying to recover.
“While the vast majority of Australian doctors are doing the right thing, we know that there is a small minority who are charging exorbitant fees.
“This is on top of private health insurers continuing to add exclusions to their policies, seeing them charge more money for less care and resulting in many customers mistakenly believing they are covered for certain treatments when actually they are not."
There have been two major Senate inquiries, chaired by the Greens, into the issue of out-of-pocket costs in the last four years. The 2017 inquiry into the ‘Value and affordability of private health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs’recommended that the Minister for Health instruct the Department of Health to publish the fees of individual medical practitioners in a searchable database.
“I call on Health Minister Greg Hunt to commit to enacting this key recommendation so patients know how much they are expected to pay ahead of time and allowing them to ‘shop’ around for treatment,” Dr Di Natale said.
“We also need urgent reform of private health insurance. Private health insurers are winding back patient coverage while pocketing record profits off the back of receiving more than $6 billion in public money each year.
“The real remedy to private health insurance is to reinvest the inefficient and inflationary rebate into the public system through Medicare, expanding Medicare to cover dental and ensuring we have a truly universal public health system in Australia."