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Doctors must justify any fee rises to cover medical indemnity costs.



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Media Release Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

DOCTORS MUST JUSTIFY ANY FEE RISES TO COVER MEDICAL INDEMNITY COSTS July 31, 2002

The Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, called on doctors to exercise moderation and caution in recouping increased costs for medical indemnity through rises in patient fees.

She said reports that some doctors were charging an extra fee of up to $6 for a patient visit appeared to be excessive and difficult to justify for non-procedural general practitioners - those doctors who did not undertake high-risk specialties.

Senator Patterson said: "The problems with medical indemnity have put pressure on everyone: doctors, patients, medical defence organisations; governments; and the whole community.

"I know it has been a stressful time for doctors and members of other professions caught up in the insurance crisis. One of the keys to finding a way through this is for all members of the community to exercise moderation to find a fair solution.

"It is neither fair nor reasonable for some non-procedural GPs to be charging an extra $6 to cover increased medical indemnity premiums."

Senator Patterson said it had been estimated that the average non-procedural GP was paying up to an extra $1500 a year for medical indemnity insurance.

"When they take into account that this is tax deductable as a business expense, most doctors will be actually paying less than $1000 a year in increased medical indemnity premium. When this is averaged over the doctors entire patient load, charging patients an extra $5 or $6 clearly is not justified to cover their costs," she said.

Senator Patterson also reminded doctors who bulk billed their patients - which is more than seven out of every 10 visits to the doctor - that it was illegal to charge patients an additional fee.

She said the Prime Minister had said that the Government was developing arrangements, including consideration of direct financial support, to ensure premium affordability for doctors undertaking higher-risk specialties.

Media Contact: Randal Markey, Media Adviser, 0417 694 520

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