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Health gaps insurance may fuel fee rises

Health Gaps Insurance May Fuel Fee Rises


Jenny Macklin - Shadow Minister for Health


Media Statement - 15 March 2000


The Shadow Health Minister, Ms Jenny Macklin, said today the Opposition was deeply concerned that proposed legislation to permit health insurance coverage of gap fees would trigger a new round of increases in doctors' fees.


"The Government has failed to demonstrate how its legislation will prevent health premiums escalating and there is nothing to prevent doctors continuing to charge large gaps, provided they disclose the bills in advance.


"The Bill has not defined how inflation will be measured and what base will be used to compare fees. The Minister should be required to intervene if fee rises are excessive.


"The recent experience with obstetrics demonstrates that without some form of cap, the doctors will take any increase in benefits and continue to charge as large a gap as the market can bear.


"The Government is setting up a vicious circle where increases in doctors' fees will flow through as increases in insurance premiums and gap fees. This would have a serious flow on effect for the public health system, as doctors in the public system would demand salary increases to keep up with those working privately.


"There is a need for safeguards to be inserted in the legislation to ensure that rapid inflation of medical fees does not occur.


"The Bill must entrench "informed financial consent" to ensure that all patients are told by their doctor, before treatment starts, on what basis the fee will be charged and how much, if anything, the patient will have to pay.


"The system being proposed will increase to 7 the number of charging options that doctors can use. There will be a lot of confusion among both patients and doctors. Each fund will have different conditions and the Bill sets no basic obligations on doctors and funds to explain the products.


"A Senate Committee will be asked to report on how the legislation can be made to work without risk of increasing the costs to patients either as larger gap fees or increases in health insurance premiums," Ms Macklin said.


Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.