Women need clear, accurate and accessible information when making financial decisions about their healthcare

29 May 2018

Media Release

The Four Corners ‘Mind the Gap’ episode that aired on ABC tonight raised a number of concerns for women considering care in the private health system, as well as specialists working in that system.

A major point of contention centred on the fact that some private medical specialists are charging exorbitant fees leaving health consumers either unable to seek the care of their choice or blindsided with unforeseen costs.

“The College does not support egregious billing of patients. The billing practices of a small number of doctors damage the reputation of the entire profession,” said RANZCOG President Professor Steve Robson.

“As a College, we fully support our patients being informed about all aspects of their care and that includes financial costs”, advocates Professor Robson. “This principle is built into our code of ethics and RANZCOG in no way encourages or supports unreasonable fee setting. What is important to note is that doctors who do charge these types of fees are the minority.”

"The College would like to assist patients who believe they have been charged unreasonable fees,” said Professor Robson.

There are multiple factors that contribute to potential out-of-pocket costs including health insurer policy coverage, Medicare schedule fees accurately reflecting the rate of inflation, as well as costs associated with running a private practice.

One of the biggest challenges for women is the difficulty identifying a ball park figure for the total cost of the care they are seeking.

No one patient has the same medical needs or circumstances and often times will need to see multiple healthcare providers inevitably impacting the type of care required. The maternity journey is a case in point example. Private obstetric fees form a component of this journey but are not indicative of the total cost of maternity care. 

“What I don’t want women to take from this is that private healthcare is not a worthwhile investment, this is not true. Women who choose private specialist care receive high quality care.”

“Clearly many women aren’t finding the information they need to be able to make the best financial decision for their situation and that’s a fair call. The health system can be difficult to navigate and this is a problem that the sector and government needs to address together,” says Professor Robson.

Professor Steve Robson is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on out-of-pocket costs.



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