Private Healthcare Australia has welcomed Labor's election commitment to establish a national standard for informed financial consent.
CEO Dr Rachel David described the commitment as a positive step towards reducing out-of-pocket costs and allowing consumers to take greater control of their specialist care.
“Health funds have long been advocating for more transparency on behalf of their members who incur out-of-pocket costs when they see a medical specialist as an outpatient. Private health insurance cannot cover these expenses under Australian law if a Medicare benefit is also paid. A gap can also occur when providers charge unethical fees, such as booking fees,” said Dr David.
Labor has committed $10 million to establish a ministerial working group that will develop a national standard designed to ensure patients are fully informed about costs ahead of their procedures.
“Gap fees are driving dissatisfaction with health funds who have limited control over what a medical specialist charges. While the majority of medical specialists charge acceptable fees and treat their patients with respect by providing advice about costs in advance, it is the small minority generating discontent.
“Research shows that when consumers are in control of their circumstances, that is, they can choose their specialist, and are fully informed about gap charges and any other additional fees, they are more satisfied with their care, and less likely to drop their private health insurance and become dependent on the already over stretched public hospital system.
“It is a known fact that there is no correlation between cost and quality when it comes to medical treatment,” said Dr David.
Dr David said consumers should be able to expect an upfront quote for hospital care that includes any extras for the anaesthetist or surgical assistant.