The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:57): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question regarding general practitioner and specialist fees.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I was recently contacted by a constituent who was shocked by the large bill she received after visiting a specialist. My constituent was referred from her GP to visit a specialist for further medical investigation and advice. She advises that at no time when she made the appointment, or when she attended the appointment, was she advised of the out-of-pocket expenses she would have to pay. Luckily, this constituent was in a financial position to be able to pay the difference, which was not covered by Medicare. However, not everybody is able to find a few extra hundred dollars unexpectedly.
My questions to the minister are:
1. Can the minister advise if there are any requirements for medical practitioners, such as GPs or specialists, or those providing medical services such as ultrasounds, to advise patients of out-of-pocket expenses?
2. If so, can the minister provide details of these requirements?
3. If not, can the minister advise if there are any plans to require medical practitioners to provide this information so that consumers can make an informed decision before engaging the service?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:58): I thank the honourable member for his question. Fundamentally, the remuneration of medical practitioners and specialists is through Medicare, so the requirements would be under commonwealth regulation. I presume also that, as private businesses, they would also be subject to state-based consumer law.
In terms of good practice, I certainly agree with the honourable member that consumers, whether they be of health services or other services, should be fully informed. For one thing, people might decide to take a different response to a health issue if they are aware of the costs.
Certainly in relation to GPs operating in country hospitals, which is one area where GPs are employed by the state government, it is standard practice for the fees that will be levied on the individual patient to be displayed in the emergency department waiting room. I certainly agree with the honourable member that it undermines public confidence in the health system when they incur out-of-pocket expenses that weren't expected. I will certainly take the honourable member's question on notice, particularly in relation to the role of the commonwealth and any other factors such as a AHPRA or medical professional associations' policies.