We all know how expensive medical costs can be.
However I was surprised to read new research by finder.com.au which showed that two in five Australians referred to see a medical specialist haven’t followed through because of the cost.
I guess it shows that most Australians don’t have a financial safety net in case things go wrong.
The finder.com.au survey of 2,010 Australians found that 41% – the equivalent of 7.6 million Australian adults – have avoided seeing a medical specialist due to the cost burden.
The research also found that women (47%) are much more likely than men (35%) to have dodged a specialist visit because it was too expensive.
In 2016, Australian households spent an average of $488 annually on out-of-pocket expenses for specialist and consultant physician consultations – up from $325 in 2009-2010.
Bessie Hassan, Money Expert at finder.com.au, says the cost burden of seeing private specialists was putting off many Australians.
“That’s millions of Australians who are ignoring a health issue because of the cost. I doubt this is a decision they make lightly but it seems people really do put a price tag on their health.”
Ms Hassan said specialist doctors were often the ones who diagnosed more serious conditions, so it’s worth exploring all options.
“A referral should be taken seriously. If you are worried about affording the secondary appointment or resulting surgery, ask about what government services are available.”
According to a report from the University of Melbourne, which analysed Medicare claims data from 2015 for an initial consultation in 11 non-surgical specialties, costs for patients could vary by up to 400% within the one specialty.
Ms Hassan said that Australians with private health insurance should check the fine print of their policy.
“Private health cover gives patients the option to choose their own specialist, seek treatment in a private hospital, and greater flexibility in terms of when they would like to be treated,” she said.
“However, there can still be a gap fee so it’s best to ask your doctor for a cost estimate and then check with your health insurer to find out how much your rebate will be for that treatment, and whether it’s included in your policy.”
State by state
- Western Australians were most likely to give a specialist visit the flick because it was too expensive – with 49% admitting they had, closely followed by Queenslanders (45%).
- South Australians are the most vigilant with only 34% not attending a recommended specialist visit, followed by Victorians (38%) and NSW residents (40%).