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Patients to pay for increases in doctors' medical indemnity costs: Patterson at last acknowledges there is a problem.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

48/2002 Wednesday 31 July 2002

PATIENTS TO PAY FOR INCREASES IN DOCTORS’ MEDICAL INDEMNITY COSTS : PATTERSON AT LAST ACKNOWLEDGES THERE IS A PROBLEM

I’m pleased to see that Health Minister Kay Patterson has today at last recognised that patients are being called upon to pay additional costs as their doctors’ medical indemnity premiums continue to rise.

I drew this issue to attention in the Parliament nearly two months ago and suggested that the ACCC needed to be involved in a monitoring role to ensure that patients were protected from any unreasonable behaviour.

Subsequently the same issue was raised with the Government at Senate Estimates in June.

The response was that the Government did not expect increases in the price of medical services and that there were no plans to involve the ACCC.

The Minister has at last caught up with the fact that there is an issue here for patients and is now concerned that doctors are increasing their charges.

Her solution is to tell patients to visit another GP: this could mean additional travel, moving away from a doctor who has managed a patient’s care over a period of time and more out-of-pocket costs as bulk billing goes into further decline.

At least the Minister finally acknowledges there is a problem for patients in the on-costs of medical indemnity insurance. A similar recognition that there is a bulk billing problem for patients would be another breakthrough.

Media Contact: Stephen Smith’s Parliament House office (02) 6277 4108

Senate Estimates Questions and Answers attached.

Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee

ANSWERS TO ESTIMATES QUESTIONS ON NOTICE

HEALTH AND AGEING PORTFOLIO

Budget Estimates 2002-03, 5 & 6 June 2002

Question: E02-212

OUTCOME 2: ACCESS TO MEDICARE

Topic: MEDICAL INDEMNITY

Written Question on Notice

Senator McLucas asked:

Already we are reading that doctors are increasing their charges to cover their medical indemnity levy.

What action will the Government take to ensure that doctors do not pass on their levy costs to patients?

Answer:

The details of the Commonwealth’s scheme to fund the incurred but not reported liabilities of medical defence organisations such as United Medical Protection are still being worked out. While this will involve a levy to doctors, the levy has yet to be introduced. Consequently, even if such reports of current increases in patient fees are true, these increases cannot be attributed to a levy.

The Prime Minister’s statement of 31 May stated that “details of the levy arrangements will be developed in consultation with affected medical practitioners … with the aim that: levies will be affordable, with amounts funded over a period of at least five years”. The government does not expect that doctors would need to pass on levy costs in the future.

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Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee

ANSWERS TO ESTIMATES QUESTIONS ON NOTICE

HEALTH AND AGEING PORTFOLIO

Budget Estimates 2002-03, 5 & 6 June 2002

Question: E02-213

OUTCOME 2: ACCESS TO MEDICARE

Topic: MEDICAL INDEMNITY

Written Question on Notice

Senator McLucas asked:

When the GST was implemented, the Government had the ACCC looking at undue price rises to help protect the public.

(a) Will the Government involve the ACCC in this case? (b) If not, why not?

Answer:

(a) The Government has no plans to involve the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) at this stage. However, the ACCC may choose to involve itself on its own initiative.

(b) The Commonwealth expects the levy to be an affordable amount which should not lead to increases in the price of medical services.