Bankruptcy facing patients paying medical bills?

The vote at the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) annual meeting on 26 May 2018 to condemn doctors charging huge copayments should shake the Government to address this major problem with our health system.


Dr Tim Woodruff, president, Doctors Reform Society said, “Before Medicare, failure to pay medical bills was a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Are we now moving back to those dark days? It is time the Government acted.


“Firstly it needs to recognise that an increasingly privatised health system brings out the worst in doctors so patients suffer, and secondly it should established a website listing doctors fees for the benefit of patients and referring doctors.


“Tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket for an operation is not right”, said Dr Woodruff.


“But it is not just operation and hospital costs that are a problem. They are the tip of the iceberg. This week I saw a patient who had taken out a small loan to pay the $180 copayment to see his dermatologist rather than wait 6 months to be seen in a public hospital. That isn’t right either.


“Many doctors appear more interested in the health of their investment portfolio than the health of their patients.

“At the heart of the problem is increasing Federal Government support for private health, together with inadequate funding for public hospitals and primary care in the community, resulting in a simple choice for many - massive debt or simply go without specialist care.


“The fact that every day many sick and vulnerable Australians are being forced to make this choice points to not just greed and profiteering by some specialists but also a massive failure of Government and its ideological health privatisation agenda.


“GPs advocating for their patients would love to be able to easily access the billing policies of the specialists to whom they refer.


“It would be simple enough to get at least the costs of a specialist visit up on a website. One limited one already exists, set up by a GP. Patients and their families would love it too.


“The Government needs to act rather than refer this issue to an Advisory Council dominated by doctors with just one consumer/patient representative. It is not due to report until the end of the year.


“Whilst members of the AMA condemn the huge copayments, the policy of the AMA is to suggest fees which include unaffordable copayments for many patients. These copayments are why patients from poorer patients see specialists much less often than those from the rich suburbs.”


“We do not have universal access to timely effective high quality health care”


See also:

Out of pocket health cost pain, SeniorAu

How to avoid surgery out-of-pocket costs, Choice.

Why it costs you so much to see a specialist — and what the Government should do about it, The Conversation


27 May 2018.