The dreadful cost of medical aids 9



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pharmacist giving many medicine blisters to customer in pharmacy drugstore

A few things for you to think about:

Case 1. My wife’s cousin has problems with sleeping, he suffers from sleep apnoea and recently went to a clinic in Melbourne where he was fully tested for his problem, to see if his present regime of night equipment was still suitable for his requirements.

The experts decided he needed a new face mask, one that fitted him better and provided him with a steadier flow of important oxygen. So far so good, but when he was presented the bill for the new equipment (a new plastic mask and a strap to secure it to his face while he slept), he was stunned to be told these two simple items were going to cost him more than $300!

Case 2. A friend of mine went to his dentist, where he had a single front tooth removed. The dentist made him a new, single-toothed denture to fit the space left by his own tooth, for which he was charged something like $2,000!

To add insult to this shock, he was also told he needed to take the denture out every time he ate because it might otherwise break! Ever heard of taking your teeth out to eat?

Case 3. The same friend who went to the dentist also went to a podiatrist because he was suffering some discomfort with his feet. He walked out of that consultation with a small, plastic inner sole for his shoe, which cost him $600.

I don’t know if he is more comfortable now the inner sole is in his shoe, but at that price I certainly hope so!

Case 4. This one actually happened to me, so I know the figures are correct. I went to an optician to have my eyes tested and was told, after a period of looking through various pieces of equipment and having drops put in my eyes etc., that I needed new glasses, which is fair enough, our sight does tend to deteriorate as we get older.

Anyway, I chose a frame, (not a ‘fashion’ one!), decided on lenses that darkened in the sun, which were bi-focal and had a scratch resistance coating. The bill was almost exactly $500!

Case 5. I do seem to have a lot of wealthy friends, but here is another one. He had his hearing tested and was sold a pair of hearing aids that cost him $8,000, yet he always seemed to be able to hear me talking to him even before he had the equipment fitted.

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg! There are also all the little things that add to the comfort of the older citizen, like walking sticks for instance. I have seen them in local pharmacies for as much as $50, though I bought a perfectly satisfactory one in Aldi a couple of months ago for $7!

A certain drug company charges about $4 for a box of 20 of their branded paracetamol tablets, but I can buy exactly the same dose, (500mg per tablet), in the discount chemists at a cost of $3.50 for 120.

I may be overly suspicious, but I can’t help wondering if there is a little bit of jiggery-pokery going on, with all these things, and many others, costing such ridiculously high figures.

Oh, I know what the operatives will say — they had many years of study at considerable cost, in order to learn how to make us feel better, but I really feel some of them have crossed the line between reasonable cost and exorbitant charging! I suppose the only answer we have is to keep superbly fit, so that we never need any of the accoutrements the less well require.

Are you concerned about the cost of health care on your hip pocket? Do you forgo getting medical treatment or tests because of the cost? Have you ever challenged or sought a second opinion for a medical procedure or prescription?

Brian Lee

  1. We have long had similar issues , I too suffer sleep apnoea but dont use it because i need new mask etc , i have problem feet , cant get shoes to fit , orthotics $1000.00 my daughter needs the same she has deformed feet. etc etc etc

  2. My last pair of glasses cost $1200. Add the cost of health insurance and a $100 refund, cannot see the point of health insurance.

    1 REPLY
    • I always go to Specsavers and have found an excellent optometrist at my local branch, and their frames are very reasonable. I am with Medibank Private and never have a large out of pocket expense. If you want “designer” frames, naturally you pay much more.

  3. I have done a sleep test and don’t have sleep apnoea, but I do snore and was recommended a special mouthguard. This works well but I was horrified at the cost, around $2000 – for a couple of dentist consultations with a mould being made of my mouth, and basically a couple of pieces of plastic. My husband has a missing tooth and is getting a dental implant; we did shop around but could not get anything under $6000. After one hearing test, the audiologist recommended the top of the range ($12,000) hearing aids for him. No thanks lady! Again we shopped around and found a consultant who went to a great deal of trouble to trial him with several different models and he ended up with a pair less than half that price – he still finds background noise a problem however but that was the same with the dearest one.

  4. WE choose to live in a capitalist society so what do you want? This is the marvelous market forces at work. If they charge $8000 for a hearing aid that costs about $100 and nobody bought it then they would reduce the price until they sold enough to maximise their profit.
    There are two important numbers for every product or service. What it costs and what enough people will pay for it. There is no relationship between these two numbers except that the selling price has to be bigger than the cost price by enough to make it worthwhile doing.
    People seem to believe that a margin of 100% is sufficient! A business has a duty to maximise the return to its owners. This apparently justifies anything from ridiculous prices to lawyers who are worth $15000 per day or part there-of, to tax miinimisation techniques that most would call unethical. Sorry I used a dirty word, if its not illegal then it must be moral and ethical!
    Who would want to live in some Socialist society where the 98% of poorer people in the population still have some money left when they die?

  5. I am a GP and suffer from sleep apnoea. I at first got a full face mask, which was unsuitable, and I felt I was rushed into buying it. Normally the clinic allows you to trial the mask for one week but because they were closing for two weeks over Xmas, I couldn’t have it for 2 weeks, and had to buy it. $300.00.
    It worked but caused irritation on my skin, a red nose, and a permanent mark across my nose, also it leaked and dried out my (already dry) eyes.
    I tried two others, paying $20 per trial.The third one, a nasal cushion mask, with minimal silicone strapping, worked well. It was going to cost $300.00. I looked online and got the same mask with additional fittings and alternative headgear,, for $75. The only thing was I couldn’t claim it from the health fund.
    CPAP machines are available online, however you need to buy them here, as you need regular follow up from the clinic and the purchase price includes that. If you have sleep apnoea though, the machine and fittings are worth the investment, as the CPAP treatment reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and adds to longevity. You have a lot more energy too.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Maureen, I too have sleep Apnoea and . I have just bought the exact same mask , I think, as the one you describe. It is the best mask I have ever had and I have tried them all in the last ten years. As I had trialled the mask and loved it, I felt honour bound to buy it from the company who loaned it to me to try. When I need a replacement I would love to know the name of the company you bought your $75 one from. I agree with everything you say about CPAP treatment. My energy levels have gone right up in the 10 years I have been using my machine. Cumbersome and a nuisance when travelling by air, but I wouldn’t leave home without it!

  6. Sorry Brian, I can’t agree with you on this one.
    Since going on the old age pension some 7 years ago I have received the following medical aids COMPLETELY FREE:
    1) CPAP machines (2 off) including all fittings.
    2) Blood pressure monitor.
    3) Blood sugar testers for my diabetes 2.
    4)A free walking frame.
    5)A wonderful remote controlled reclining lounge chair (worth heaps of $s) – just heaven to sit in.
    6) A specially designed ergo chair to sit behind my computer.
    7) FREE hearing aids (onto my third set now).
    8) $4500 worth of dental work including dentures. Follow up visits too at only $28 per visit.
    9) Totally free regular specialist visits for my vascular problems.
    10) Free podiatry twice a year.
    11) An operation to my cateroid artery at no cost.
    12) Occupational therapists visiting my home for free.
    13) The offer of a free disabled scooter that I’m currently considering (pride thing I have to say).
    14) $143 from Centrelink each year to help with the additional electricity costs of my CPAP machine.
    15) Free optical check each year with free glasses if I require them.
    Surely many, many of the Starts at Sixty readers must be able to drastically cut the costs of their medical aids with a bit of effort? I suggest inquiring with your GP, your local council’s community services department, the Dept. of Human Services or simply putting some questions to Google Search. I really hope this comment might pay dividends for many of the SAS readers.

    1 REPLY
    • I really think this note of yours deserves more publicity than as a simple reply to my blog. Why don’t you write this up as a blog of your own, (not more than about 700 words), and submit it to Starts at Sixty – they are always eager to receive items like this from readers.

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