Friday, 4 April 2014

How do rising health care costs affect you?

"Reason for delay in accessing healthcare" -
Source: CHF's Health Cost Survey data 
With the cost of health care set to be a central issue in the upcoming federal budget, Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton, has called for national debate on making our health system more sustainable.

A Senate committee has been tasked with investigating the cost of out-of-pocket expenses for consumers of health care in Australia. The Consumer Health Forum (CHF) is urging consumers of health services to play a central role in this discussion.

The debate comes at a time when the federal government is seeking to introduce a Medicare co-payment to see a GP. CHF say there are indications that the Government is also considering adding more user pays into our health care system, all of which will increase the cost of health care for the end user.                                                                                                                 

Over the past year, CHF have been conducting a national campaign examining the effects of increasing out-of-pocket expenses for health care consumers. This work has included commencing a national online survey and releasing a report Empty Pockets: Why Co-Payments Are Not the Solution.

The Empty Pockets report says that the introduction of co-payments is likely to result in decreased access to health care that will disproportionately affect the elderly, people on low incomes and people with chronic illnesses. The report found no evidence for overall cost savings as a result of the introduction of co-payments and limited evidence for increased downstream health care costs.

To date, more than 70% of respondents (n=350) in the CHF Health Costs Survey  said they had delayed going to the doctor when they needed to, half of whom attributed this delay to cost worries.

The CHF argue that we do not need to add further financial barriers to patients to ensure Australia retains a world standard health system, and say that there are other ways of countering the growth in health costs that do not require increasing out of pocket costs.

The CHF stress that the Parliamentary Inquiry presents an important opportunity for individuals and organisations to highlight the impact of increasing out-of-pocket costs on consumers.

“This inquiry will provide real world evidence to challenge the theorists arguing for more co-payments to balance the budget. The time is now that priority should be given to physical rather than fiscal realities,” said CHF CEO, Adam Stankevicius.

The committee will have at least one public hearing, possibly in Canberra.  You don’t have to attend the hearing to have your voice heard.  You have until May 12, 2014 to write in with your views and experience.

Telling your story

The CHF say that key to engaging the interest of the media and politicians on these issues is by sharing the human stories at the heart of this debate.

Often the costs associated with managing illness, particularly chronic conditions, are a major issue for health consumers. The CHF is encouraging people to share real life stories about the personal impact of health care costs, and to explain how this impacts decisions about accessing care.

Personal impacts may range from gap charges running into hundreds of dollars for GP, specialist and private hospital care, the significant cost of prescribed medicines and over the counter products, health aids like spectacles, dental bills and transport costs.

You can send email submissions to community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au.

Or by post to:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 3515
Fax: +61 2 6277 5829

For further advice see: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/OnlineSubmission

Submissions should be received by 12 May 2014.


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