One third of patients avoid seeing specialist due to cost


More than a third of patients avoid seeing specialist doctors because they cost too much, a consumer comparator website claims.

In Finder’s survey of 2011 people, 41% of women and 32% of men answered ‘yes’ when asked whether they had ever avoided going to see a medical specialist because it was too expensive.

The finder.com.au site allows consumers to compare rates for products across 50 categories including health insurance and contains advertising for Medibank.

The survey findings suggest 6.9 million Australians have skipped specialist healthcare because of the cost, Finder claims in an article published by news.com.au.

The company also highlights the $316.57 average gap fee for single episode hospital visits, drawn from data published by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

Finder’s insurance expert Bessie Hassan said it was “concerning that so many Australians could not adequately address medical concerns due to money issues”.

“Specialist appointments can come with a big price tag – something many can’t afford,” she said in a statement provided to the limbic.

In Australia, about 85% of GP visits are bulk-billed compared to about 30% of specialist consults, she said.

“It’s worth ringing around to see if you can find a specialist who doesn’t charge over and above the Medicare rebate so you don’t end up hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket.”

A spokesman said it used the company PureProfile to recruit survey participants, who made up a nationally representative sample.

The high cost of specialists’ fees has become a hot political issue.

In January Health Minister Greg Hunt appointed a ministerial advisory committee on out-of-pocket costs, following claims some doctors are charging exorbitant fees.

And in August he announced the Chief Medical Officer would work with doctors’ groups to develop a ‘transparency model’ under which doctors’ fees would be published.

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