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Thursday, 26 October 2006

Medical Expenses

I had to see the doctor twice last week. The first "long" consultation (about 20 mins) cost $80, and the follow-up visit (a "short" consultation of around 10 mins) cost $50. Because I'd registered my banking details with the practice, my Medicare rebate was paid electronically into my bank account the next business day after I'd paid each bill using my day-to-day credit card. I got $59.70 refund from Medicare for the long consult, and $31.45 back for the short consult - overall a refund of 70% of the total doctor's bill. It's nice to get some of my tax dollars back, but I'd rather not be sick in the first place! The presciption medications cost me a total of $88.50 - each item costing just the $29.50 PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) subsidised price. I'm not sure how much it each item actually costs the government, but I'm sure it's well over twice the PBS price.

Ending up around $130 out-of-pocket for half an hour of a GPs time and several hundred dollars worth of medicine seems like a bargain. While I can see that this would still be a large cost for a "working poor" family, I believe some small co-payment should be required from all patients - say, $5 from the bulk-billed patients for each visit to the doctor. Most doctor's still "bulk-bill" pensioner patients, in which case the patient pays nothing, and the doctor gets a slightly reduced amount from medicare. A small co-payment would discourage overservicing - such as lonely pensioners visiting the doctor just for a chat!

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