Visiting a medical specialist can be key to managing an existing health condition, although new research has found 6.9 million Australians avoid visiting a specialist because it’s simply too expensive.
The research, conducted by website finder.com.au, found one in three Australians who are referred to see a medical specialist don’t book an appointment because it’s too costly. The survey of 2,011 people found it was women who were more likely to avoid seeing a specialist at 41 per cent, compared to 32 per cent of men who dodge a visit.
The study found the average out-of-pocket hospital expenses for hospital treatment in 2017 was $317 per episode. This high cost is being blamed for many adults putting off potentially life-changing visits with a specialist.
“It’s concerning that so many Australians can’t adequately address medical concerns due to money issues,” Bessie Hassan, money expert at finder.com.au said. “Specialist appointments can come with a big price tag, but ignoring a medical condition could end up costing you much more than a specialist appointment.”
While GPs can diagnose some health conditions, it’s specialist doctors in many cases who can diagnose more serious issues and work out the best strategy for overcoming or managing the health problem. In some cases, doing research before booking an appointment can save you big in the long run.
“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,” Hassan said.
The research found plastic and reconstructive surgeries have the largest gap. On average, 38 per cent of the procedure price is an out-of-pocket expense. Ear, nose and throat treatments also proved costly, with most of these treatments averaging a 29 per cent out-of-pocket expense.
Tasmanians were most likely to avoid vital medical care, with 44 per cent of respondents admitting they hadn’t followed through with a specialist appointment. Western Australians weren’t far behind at 43 per cent, while 38 per cent of South Australians avoided specialists because of the cost. On the other hand, Victorians, Queenslanders and residents of New South Wales were more likely to get follow-up care with a specialist.
As a way of avoiding potentially expensive medical costs, Finder made several recommendations to Australians when it came to their medical cover. The first was to choose a health fund that provides 100 per cent gap cover, while also picking a policy that doesn’t include excesses or co-payments.
It’s also important to ensure doctors and hospitals visited participate in your health fund’s gap-cover scheme and to research which fees are charged by other health care providers. Seeking treatment from health care providers that charge the MBS-scheduled fee is also vital.
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