p>Patients being treated for cancer, and other serious health conditions could be forced to fork out thousands of dollars upfront to pay for MRI, X-Rays, CAT scans and mammograms as a result of Malcolm Turnbull’s latest health cuts.
Patients being treated for cancer, and other serious health conditions could be forced to fork out thousands of dollars upfront to pay for MRI, X-Rays, CAT scans and mammograms as a result of Malcolm Turnbull’s latest health cuts.
The pre-Christmas Budget decision to rip $650 million out of health by scrapping bulk billing incentives pathology and cutting rebates for scans will see many forced to charge patients for scans and tests that were previously bulk-billed.
Under Medicare rules, any patient charged these fees must pay the entire amount up-front and then claim back the rebate later.
According to the Australia Diagnostic Imaging Association patients who were previously bulk-billed would have to pay up to $93 upfront for an x-ray, $396 for a CAT scan, a minimum of $85 for a mammogram and up to $186 for an ultrasound. For those unfortunate enough to need a PET scan, the up-front cost could hit $1,000.
But patients with serious conditions never need just one scan. Australia has the world’s highest diagnosed rate of melanoma and a typical patient diagnosed with melanoma would be referred for a PET scan and an MRI scan of the brain.
A patient who was previously bulk billed would therefore face upfront costs of around $1500 and still be left with out of pocket costs of up to $400 after receiving their Medicare rebates.
A patient with suspected breast cancer faces upfront costs of up to $554 for mammograms and ultrasounds and be left with $300 out of pocket even after receiving all the Medicare rebates.
The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association has declared the shock Budget attack on patients to be worse than Tony Abbott’s failed $7 GP tax.
“We are talking about services that are absolutely essential to diagnosing and treating many conditions, and we’re making it harder for people to get. More people – especially those with chronic, serious conditions – will not be properly assessed. If Medicare exists to help people, this doesn’t make sense.”
Dr Christian Wriedt, President ADIA, 16th December 2015
For many of the patients who are now bulk-billed, those sorts of costs will be unaffordable. We already know that up-front costs are a huge barrier to people on limited incomes and many patients will delay, or even skip crucial scans.
As pathologists have pointed out, such measures are not only bad for patients, but are short sighted and will cost the health system more in the longer term.
“This is a very poor outcome for patients, and will cost the Government more in the longer term as the diagnosis of disease is deferred as is the opportunity for prevention of disease, meaning patients will become sicker without the positive interventions provided by the correct pathology diagnosis.
Liesel Wett, CEO, Pathology Australia, 15th December 2015
While the government has changed leaders, the essential policy remains the same – to cut health and shift costs on to patients, only this time in manner that punishes the most seriously ill, at every stage of illness and treatment.
ESTIMATED COSTS TO PATIENTS IN THE TYPICAL COURSE OF DIAGNOSIS