2nd Oct 2018
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The health costs hurting you despite increased budgets
Author: Janelle Ward
healthcare

A report released on Monday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that total health expenditure by governments in 2016–17 rose to $180.7 billion, or more than $7400 per person.

Overall, the real growth in 2016–17 health spending was 4.7 per cent, up from an average of 3.1 per cent over the previous five years.

Does that equate to good news for you and your out-of-pocket medical expenses?

Judging by the result of YourLifeChoices’ Retirement Matters Survey and analysis by Professor John Goss, from the University of Canberra’s Health Research Institute, the answer is no.

Asked ‘What strategies do you use to make your money go further?’, 49 per cent of the almost 6000 survey respondents said they went only to doctors who bulk billed and 18 per cent said they avoided going to a dentist.

Professor Goss noted that in the five years since the last AIHW report in 2011–12, real out-of-pocket payments per person had climbed only five per cent, “which was a big improvement compared with results from the five years to 2011–12 when they climbed 29 per cent.”

“Does this new good news contradict all those claims that out-of-pocket costs are one of the most important issues in the health sector?” he asks in an article on The Conversation.

Essentially, no.

Professor Goss says Australians have one of the highest ratios of out-of-pocket recurrent health spending among wealthy countries – even though it fell slightly from 17.9 per cent to 17.7 per cent, according to the latest report, Health Expenditure Australia 2016–17.

The areas with the highest out-of-pocket expenses were visits to specialists and dentists.

“For specialists, they [out-of-pocket fees] are high and growing; an average of $155 per person, up 43 per cent since 2011–12,” he said.

“A worrying 7.3 per cent of Australian adults who needed to see a specialist in 2016–17 said they delayed or didn’t go because of the cost.”

That response was particularly evident when it came to visits to dentists.

Out-of-pocket costs for dental services reached $240 per person per year. And even those with private health insurance still paid 46 per cent of dental fees charged, Professor Goss said.

“Many people without insurance avoided the dentist altogether. Some 27 per cent of the bottom fifth of the population, who are most disadvantaged, delayed or did not see a dentist when they should have in 2016–17, due to the cost.”

The table below shows the out-of-pocket spending per person per year in 2016–17 (and the change in percentage) for assorted health services.

  • medications not subsidised by government – $394 (10 per cent)
  • prescription medicines subsidised by government – $58 (-15 per cent)
  • dental services – $240 (11 per cent)
  • aids and appliances – $118 (1 per cent)
  • allied health professional services – $95 (-17 per cent)
  • unreferred (GP and other) medical services – $31 (4 per cent)
  • referred specialist and other medical services – $155 (43 per cent)
  • hospital services – $133 (9 per cent).

Read the full article on The Conversation here.

Do you believe the issue of out-of-pocket costs incurred by visits to specialists and dentists needs urgent attention?

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    COMMENTS

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    Knows-a-lot
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:15am
    The sooner there's a Royal Commission into the whole health sector the better. Specialists and dentists have been gouging the long-suffering public for far too long.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:37am
    All my specialists bulk bill me and my health fund pays for dental check ups, cleans etc every six months and have been doing so for years now.
    Anne Ozzie
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:08am
    Yes and while you are at it add in investigation into hearing aids prices. Aldi ones $2500, ones from hearing aid shops $16,000 - check it out yourself. Rebate from private health fund was $1600! Of course if you are a pensioner you will get it cheaper, but for self-funded retirees its a nightmare and these days they have pimps standing outside their shops in shopping malls!

    Another thing - CPAP machines - cost about $2500, rebate from private health fund $700 then you have annual mask part costs of $120 and plastic humidifying reservoir cost $160. The costs of these units overseas is about half.

    They are all gouging us.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:25am
    Just buy your hearing aids online they are no different to those you pay big dollars for.
    TREBOR
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:35am
    I get mine for free......

    Anyway - the doctors and dentists are crying out for strong controls over their gouging... nationalise 'em all and put 'em on a salary... no signee, no studyee....

    Besides, in many cases the wrong types are getting into these courses.... academic attainment is not the only criteria.... and some universities recognise that increasingly... medicine is a calling, not a business opportunity.
    Paddington
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:44am
    Four of my prescription medicines are not free any more. So they rob Peter to pay Paul. Instead of paying $6 they cost between $10 to $13 and they are much needed drugs.
    Doctors bulk bill which is good but dentists overcharge for sure. Luckily, my private health fund covers most of the dental costs. I need the private health fund and would not cancel that.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:24am
    It is so long since I got a prescription filled that I don't know what they cost.

    Just looked it up and it would cost me $39.50 per script filled.
    Paddington
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:32pm
    OG you must be privileged then because elderly people usually do not pay that for prescription medicine. Some are going without as it is at the $6 amount if they have multiple scripts or having to choose between heating and food. You would not understand then!
    KSS
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:40pm
    Lucky you only having to pay $10-$13 a script.

    A pack of just two injectables is $135 also a much needed drug for migraine. Doable when still working but once retired what then?
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    1:33pm
    Yes I did get a prescription for some cream for my hands and it cost over $100 but my health fund paid most of it.
    TREBOR
    2nd Oct 2018
    6:17pm
    I just noticed that today - I used my last refill for a drug shared by myself and the ex - she had none and I don;t use it any more - and it cost $10... off the list.
    Paddington
    9th Oct 2018
    5:56pm
    KSS, what about the safety net? We only have to spend so much before we get there?
    trood
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:51am
    Dental costs are outrageous, $340 for a 20 minute check up and clean, the Health fund covered $310 and the dentist "forgave" the extra $30, big deal!
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:25am
    Most dentists now just do it for what the Health Fund pays.
    Paddington
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:33pm
    Wrong OG. We moved from Qld to Vic years ago and noticed how much more expensive the dentists were. It is simply greed. Not everyone has private health cover anyway!
    sunnyOz
    2nd Oct 2018
    1:23pm
    What planet are you on OG, saying that "most dentists".... Good heavens, what rubbish! After needing some recent work, went to my usual dentist. Asked for a written quote and codes. Then rang 6 other dentists for quote. My dentist - $576. Other quotes were from $495 - $845! With top cover long held extras, the rebate was $245. Asked a friend to check with her health fund and her rebate would be $216. So I was doing the best. Over the years I have watched premiums sky rocket, whilst rebates and cover constantly get cut.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    1:30pm
    I must have a good health fund then. I know it pays out over twice as much as it costs me each year so as far as I am concerned it's a win win for me.
    Rosret
    2nd Oct 2018
    2:36pm
    The quote for a specialist to do a root canal was $2800 and my private medical cover (with dental) would pay - NOTHING.
    My choices were - live in excruciating pain or empty the bank account.
    I really wondered how people on an OAP would manage. - pliers?
    Circum
    2nd Oct 2018
    7:45pm
    Would love to know what health fund you are with.$310 rebate beats my top cover rebate by over $200 Trood
    Old Geezer
    3rd Oct 2018
    4:29pm
    Last dental check up $366 and all paid for by health fund.
    Sophie
    4th Oct 2018
    11:31am
    Incredible!! A figment of your over active imagination no doubt..since no health fund pays out the full amount.
    Old Geezer
    4th Oct 2018
    12:21pm
    That's why I have that health fund.
    TREBOR
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:30am
    Blame the doctors who think that their sh1t doesn't stink for the out of pocket costs.....

    Mind you, Fat Joe The Terminally Stupid's (a clear indication that a tertiary education doth not make a genius) attempt to enforce an extra cost blew many doctors out of the bulk billing arena.... and the constant attacks on Medicare are a clear indication that it is fair game to simply demand that even the lowest paid in the land pay an exorbitant cost just to get medical treatment and care.
    KSS
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:47pm
    OMG TREBOR. A week is a long time in politics yet you are still routed in 2015!

    Do try to come into the present.
    TREBOR
    2nd Oct 2018
    6:18pm
    The past in this case has determined one issue for the present - and made the road back on e hell of a lot harder. Sack Joe from his sweet ride and arrest and arraign him before the coruts...
    Billy's bonkers
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:40am
    Went to the dentist 3 weeks ago. check up, xray, one tooth new filling, one tooth extracted and a full clean, cost $110
    Billy's bonkers
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:41am
    Oh forgot to mention it was in Thailand lol
    TREBOR
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:51am
    Ha, ha...... global economy, innit? The difference in cost pays your fares and you get a holiday as well.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:09pm
    That's about what it costs me here too.
    Paddington
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:34pm
    OG, whatever!
    Rosret
    2nd Oct 2018
    2:30pm
    They are are very low average. If it was only $155 for a specialist or $240 for a dentist.
    Its $1000s. Perhaps we could have a list of comparison charges between specialists and dentists.
    The only trouble is - the good ones have a price tag and the older one gets the more complicated treatments seem to become.
    KB
    2nd Oct 2018
    3:12pm
    I am bulkbilled by my doctor but have to pay charges for specialists and get very little back. I agree with a Royal Commission into fees and charges of specialists.
    Circum
    2nd Oct 2018
    7:55pm
    A royal commission wont help as fees are different between doctors/specialists.One specialist spent an hour investigating and explaining things and charged $110.Another a few years later spent 10 minutes,said your ok to go and charged me $150.Maybe there should be a standard which no doubt most of the medical fraternity will fight against.
    olbaid
    2nd Oct 2018
    3:28pm
    Have good health insurance in case of unexpected illness
    Otherwise visits to GP cost nothing
    So my healthcare costs havent gone up at all over the years.
    Only insurance premiums, but thats manageable
    jennyb
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:11pm
    I simply can't afford private medical insurance. CERTAINLY can't afford it now with the levy of 2% for every year over 30 - LOL. Had it 30 years ago when birthed my son, did the sums at the time and let it go, not worth the premiums paid. Been lucky with health since that time - have only needed 1-2 emergency admissions to hospital, brilliant care. But an interesting twist a couple of weeks ago. My GP requested an MRI to pinpoint sciatic nerve problem. Had to pay full cost upfront , no Medicare coverage. Why? Because GP had requested test. Apparently, had a SPECIALIST made the request, it would have been fully covered by Medicare. WTF? What genius worked this one out? A Royal Commission could look at this one fer sure! - as well as many other wrinkles in the system!!
    Ausdigga
    3rd Oct 2018
    7:30am
    So OG are going to name wonderful health fund and which cover you have or is this more " mine's better than yours " don't be shy speak up now !!
    OnlyDaughter
    3rd Oct 2018
    9:38am
    Definitely support you in this. OGs claim is unbelievable. Self satisfaction and self congratulation is a scary thing....
    Old Geezer
    4th Oct 2018
    11:10am
    No need for self satisfaction or anything else. If I could post an image of the account I would. All it says to me is you need to do more research and find yourself a better health fund. I am in an old fund that is no longer available and I guess I get kudos for being with them for over 25 years as well.
    Sophie
    4th Oct 2018
    11:35am
    Call your bluff then Old Geezer. Since you can't post an image here. Nothing to stop you from posting it in the Meeting Place forum..

    Just think how you'd be helping both your insurers and the posters to have the same advantages as yourself!!!
    OnlyDaughter
    3rd Oct 2018
    9:39am
    I have top cover in everything in my Private Health Insurance and I still get blown out of the water, financially, over everything medical and dental. I now work on the premise of having to pay 50% out of pocket expenses for basic dentistry and 70% on complicated dental work, plus 30% of the overall surgery quotes, with the 70% paid by Medicare and my health fund.

    However, on the plus side, I have a wonderful GP who bulk bills me.


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