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Specialist Medical Fees

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:51): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health a question about publicly listing specialist fees and performance standards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: On 6 March 2017, the Consumers Health Forum of Australia released a statement calling for the establishment of an independent website to publicly list specialist fees and information about the performance standards of specialists. This recommendation was in response to a 2017 publication by the Medical Journal of Australia, which highlighted the dramatic variations in what specialists charge for the same service.

It was found that costs varied by more than $100 for eight out of 11 specialities. Without this transparency, consumers cannot make informed decisions about their health or make a determination on whether higher fees represent higher quality. My questions to the minister are:

1. Can the minister advise what requirements specialists currently have regarding publication of their fees?

2. Are specialists required to publish their fees both on online and at their surgery?

3. Is the government considering adopting the recommendation to establish an independent website to publicly list specialist fees and information about the performance standards of specialists?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:52): I thank the honourable member for his question. The issue is probably better directed to the commonwealth government. The commonwealth is responsible for private health insurance and private health insurance regulation. In terms of the upcoming COAG Health Council, I know there is an item on the agenda there on out-of-pocket expenses, so it is a matter that is certainly in the commonwealth's mind. My understanding is that they have established committee to look at that issue.

Personally, I believe that consumers should have information. Whether that is on a website and who would run it are matters for debate. I am particularly referring there to costs. When you move into the area of performance indicators, it is much more complicated, and I appreciate that a lot of specialists have concerns about specialist by specialist data. One of the concerns is that you don't want to encourage surgeons or other medical practitioners to avoid complex patients for fear that they might adversely affect such data. I certainly agree with the honourable member that that is an area that we need to explore, but we need to explore it carefully.