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Consumers win right to know doctor's fees.



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Consumers Win Right To Know Doctor's Fees Jenny Macklin - Shadow Minister for Health

Media Statement - 6 June 2000

Shadow Health Minister, Ms Jenny Macklin today welcomed the Senate amendments that require doctors to disclose fees to their patients before treatment in hospital.

"For the first time, patients have been given the right to be told what they can expect to pay for treatment," Ms Macklin said.

"The amendments were added to the Government's legislation for gap cover schemes for privately insured patients. They require all "gap cover schemes" to provide patients with written advice of any amounts that the person can reasonably be expected to pay for treatment.

"There is an exemption covering circumstances where this is not appropriate - such as emergency treatment or where the patient is unconscious. Funds will be required to report on the proportion of cases where prior consent has been achieved, to encourage the rapid spread of this practice.

"In a further bonus, controls have been placed on gap free insurance schemes to ensure they do not allow fees or health insurance premiums to rise above a defined index.

"An ALP amendment to require doctors who are not in a gap cover scheme to disclose fees was defeated after the Government claimed that there were constitutional problems.

"I will be seeking further legal advice and will look to extend fee disclosure provisions in an appropriate manner to other doctors," Ms Macklin said.

Other amendments passed by the Senate include:

A requirement for doctors to disclose financial interests in any products or services recommended or given to the patient. This means that doctors will have to disclose ownership arrangements in radiology, pathology or private hospitals when they refer their patients;

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The publication of agreements between health funds and doctors on the Internet to ensure that there are not undisclosed clauses that would interfere with the clinical independence of doctors or adversely affect patients' interests; and

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A review of gap cover schemes in two years. ●

"This is a great step forward for health consumers' rights," Ms Macklin said.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.