CHF collecting out-of-pocket 'stories'

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The Consumers Health Forum says it is seeking "stories" from people about their experience with out-of-pocket health costs to inform their contribution to the Out of Pocket Ministerial Advisory Committee.

The organisation launched what is has called the 'Out of Pocket Pain survey' last week. It is a very short survey, with only a small number of questions actually related to the consumer experience of out-of-pocket health costs. It is substantially based on an estimate of spending over the past two years.

Health minister Greg Hunt announced the new committee in early January. It will be chaired by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, and has been tasked with investigating out-of-pocket costs and options to ensure that consumers are better informed of fees before agreeing to treatment.

The CHF is on the committee, along with medical groups and the private health insurance sector.

In response to questions from HealthDispatch, the CHF said it will use the stories, in addition to qualitative research, to "illustrate different issues around out of pocket costs and we will look for common themes and problems."

A recent report from Treasury showed a significant jump in the number of Australians securing early access to their superannuation to fund medical treatment. Over 55 per cent of the applications were for bariatric weight loss surgery.

Reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show Australians spent on average $1,195 on out-of-pocket health costs in 2015-16. This was up from $837 in 2005-06 but over half of the increase was due to a significant spike in spending on the 'other medications' category that includes over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbal and other complementary medicines.

The 'other medications' category currently represents around one-third of average out-of-pocket consumer spending on health, up from less than one quarter ten years ago.