The federal government’s initiative to force specialists’ to reveal their fees on a publicly-searchable website is unlikely to become a reality until 2020, a Senate committee has been told .
The idea of fee transparency website to allow patients to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket charges was first announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt in early March.
But when questioned about its progress during a Senate Estimates hearing, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, who is heading the committee responsible for the project, said it was proving to be a complex undertaking and there was still “a fair bit of work to do”.
With an early focus on cancer specialists he said a lot of consultation had yet be undertaken, and the website was unlikely to go “live” until sometime in 2020, he said.
When pushed whether that would be the first quarter of next year, he said “it’s just too early to say”.
While supporting the concept of financial informed consent, the AMA has been critical of the minister’s “gap fee” initiative, saying the fee transparency website will do nothing to inform patients about their likely out-of-pocket costs unless it also lists what patients can expect back from Medicare and their private health insurance fund.
“The AMA supports and actively encourages full transparency of doctors’ fees, and unreservedly condemns egregious billing, which occurs in a very small percentage of cases,” said AMA President Dr Tony Bartone.
“But that transparency must extend to both the size of the MBS rebate and the private health insurance contribution to the cost of treatment.”
“While it appears that this website will include information about MBS rebates, will it show the specific rebate for a given procedure, or just the average out-of-pocket cost in tiers?