Specialists still free to charge fees as they please
THE Consumers Health Forum has reported that Australian consumers pay higher out of pocket health costs compared with most other countries. To address this, the Government has pledged to provide a website where specialist doctors can post their fees. This pledge is an attempt to crack down on specialists charging high fees that leave patients out of pocket.
The effectiveness of the website is questionable. Specialists are not required to post their fees on the website but may do so voluntarily. Not everyone has access to a computer or the internet so the website will only help those with access. And doctors may potentially increase their fees if they see that they are charging less than other specialists.
While increasing transparency of specialists’ costs sounds good, it ignores the fact that Australia is the only country in the OECD that allows doctors complete price freedom.
While out of pocket expenses threaten the health of Australians, the Government seems to think that politely asking specialists to publish their fees will solve the problem.
It is about time Australia caught up with the rest of the world. Price regulation for specialists’ fees would prevent the financial turmoil that a specialist visit causes in many cases.
Quality healthcare is an entitlement for all Australians. Price regulation for specialists’ fees would have huge benefits for patients.