Cardiologists bulk-billing half of all initial consults: Medical Costs Finder site


Cardiologists are more likely than many other specialists to bulk-bill an initial appointment while also charging some of the lowest fees, patients are being told.

The figures come from the federal government’s Medical Costs Finder website, which is currently recruiting specialists ahead of a $17 million relaunch later this year.

After the redesign, it will list specific fee details and gap fee arrangements from individual practitioners across about 100 medical services, the Department of Health and Aged Care says.

While individual specialist fees remain unavailable for the time being, a beta version has been launched already and the site now shows aggregate fees across MBS items broken down by specialty and location.

Based on historic data, it shows that for initial consultations claimed under MBS item 110, cardiologists bulk-billed some 50% of patients, leaving the rest with an out-of-pocket cost of $168 on average.

By contrast, 29% of rheumatology appointments claimed under the item were bulk-billed, while those that weren’t had a far higher out-of-pocket cost of $148 on average, the website says.

It also showed significant regional variation when it came to specialist fee setting.

Initial attendances (MBS item 110)

NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS NT ACT
% Bulk-billed 49% 50% 43% 43% 25% 55% 45% 31%
Typical doctors’ fees $250 $237 $260 $210 $257 $232 $265 $278
Patients typically pay $118 $103 $128 $78 $125 $100 $133 $146

The same was true of subsequent consultations billed under MBS item 116, which had bulk-billing rates of 60% in Tasmania and the NT, compared but 27% in in Western Australia.

But the highest fees costs were levied by specialists in the ACT at $150 on average, according to the website.

Subsequent attendances (MBS item 116)

NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS NT ACT
% bulk-billed 58% 49% 44% 57% 27% 60% 60% 44%
Typical doctors’ fees $140 $130 $140 $120 $135 $125 $130 $150
Patients typically pay $74 $64 $74 $54 $69 $59 $64 $84

The department has not said how many doctors have signed up to the new site so far, but if the testing goes as planned their fees will be made public by the end of July.

It has also stressed participation will remain strictly voluntary and individual doctor’s information will not be used for compliance purposes.

“The department will not be checking the data against Medicare claims data,” it said in an FAQ earlier this year.

“The portal will run a data assurance check against typical data to ensure that any errors (significant variance from other data) are identified by the system.”

“Where a discrepancy is detected, the user will be notified so they can check their entry for potential errors.”

Specialty % of bulk-billed initial consults (MBS item 110) Average out-pocket cost initial consults (MBS item 110) % of bulk-billed subsequent consults (MBS item 116) Average out-of-pocket cost subsequent consults (MBS item 116)
Geriatric medicine 79% $78 69% $59
Infectious diseases 81% $80 73% $54
Nephrology 60% $88 65% $59
Rehabilitation medicine 85% $88 87% $59
Cardiology 50% $93 47% $61
Gastroenterology and hepatology 40% $98 48% $54
Respiratory and sleep medicine 40% $115 43% $64
Endocrinology 47% $118 47% $74
Haematology 64% $118 69% $54
Medical oncology 77% $118 71% $64
Paediatric medicine 38% $148 41% $92
Rheumatology 29% $148 26% $74
Neurology 46% $168 41% $94
Immunology and allergy 26% $168 57% $79

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